Conservative rabbis call for 'non-boycott'
Jewish Conservative group passes ‘Equality of Treatment in Israeli Hotels’ resolution in a bid to encourage Conservative Jews to patronize hotels that provide adequate treatment.
The U.S. leader of an international association of Conservative rabbis says its recent resolution calling on Jewish groups to patronize Israeli hotels that allow non-Orthodox prayer services on their premises is not tantamount to a boycott.
"There is absolutely no suggestion or reference in the resolution in any way to a boycott," Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, told Haaretz. "What the resolution calls for is for our people to reach out directly to hotels and to travel agents to make sure that our needs are being met in hotels that we patronize in Israel."
The 1,600-member body's "Equality of Treatment in Israeli Hotels" resolution, passed at its national convention last month in Atlanta, Georgia, cited frequent instances of Conservative groups being denied the use of hotel-owned Torahs for religious services "that were not in accordance with Orthodox practice." In some cases, it noted, hotels offered to locate a Torah from outside the hotel for an additional fee.
The resolution called on the Israel Hotel Association "and all Israeli hotels to treat Jews of all denominations equally and to afford Jews and all groups of non-Orthodox streams any of the rights and privileges afforded Orthodox guests." The resolution also called on Masorti and Conservative movements to "patronize hotels that follow this policy."
Industry observers will be watching closely to see how the "non-boycott" plays out. "I will be more impressed when a future group pulls out of a specific hotel due to their policies," said Mark Feldman, who heads the Jerusalem-based Ziontours.
Rabbi Andrew Sacks, director of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel, says Conservative prayer groups have encountered various obstacles at Israeli hotels for years, but that many of the guests wouldn't know it, as arrangements to acquire a Torah from another source are often made quietly to avoid a showdown with the hotel management.
Sacks told Haaretz that a recent incident at a Jerusalem hotel - when a delegation of synagogue executives was asked to pay a NIS 400 fee to have another scroll brought in - triggered the passage of last month's resolution. "That was the last straw," said Sacks.