Survey: Third of Israeli Jews identify with Reform movement

(JTA) – Nearly two-thirds of Israeli Jewish respondents surveyed said that Reform Judaism deserves rights equal to those afforded to Orthodox Judaism.

The Midgam polling agency survey of 500 also showed 25 per cent approval for equality among respondents who defined themselves as religious, the news site nrg reported Thursday.

Israel’s predominant Jewish denomination is Orthodox. Though some local authorities provide funding and official recognition to Judaism’s other streams, activists seeking to achieve greater equality before the law complain of institutional discrimination, connected with the political clout of Orthodox religious parties in Israel and the status of the Orthodox chief rabbinate, which operates state-recognized tribunals and whose hundreds of employees are civil servants.

In the survey, 72 per cent of respondents said they disagreed with the assertions of haredi Orthodox politicians that Reform Jews are not Jewish at all. Among religious respondents, the figure was 48 per cent.

With approximately 470,000 Jews defining themselves as Reform or Conservative, these denominations, also called Progressive, account for about 7.5 per cent of Israel’s Jewish population, according to several polls.

Yet 33 per cent of the people polled in the Midgam survey said they “especially identify” with Progressive Judaism, compared to 36 per cent who said the especially identified with Orthodox Jews.

The nrg report did not say how respondents were selected for the survey, which was commissioned by the Israel Movement for Reform & Progressive Judaism ahead of its 52nd biennial conference on May 27-28.

One in six respondents said they had visited a Reform synagogue over the past five years, and more than 37 per cent said they attended a wedding, bar mitzvah or other religious ceremony under the auspices of the Reform movement. Among Orthodox respondents, the figure was 27.9 per cent.

Asked whether the Israel Defense Forces should have Reform chaplains in addition to Orthodox ones, 47.9 per cent of respondents replied in the affirmative.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the the Israel Movement for Reform & Progressive Judaism, said the data reflects “growing change” in attitudes in Israel toward Progressive Judaism.


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