Israel's Envoy in Toronto: Jewish Community Officials Warn of Alienation Over Kotel Crisis

Gali Baram reports to the Foreign Ministry that she received harsh responses, including a warning that the government's decisions on the Western Wall and conversions deeply affect younger generation

Women pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on June 27, 2017.
THOMAS COEX/AFP

Jewish communities all over the world have come out in protest against the Israeli cabinet’s decision to freeze the egalitarian prayer agreement at the Western Wall and to promote the bill to not recognize conversions carried out or authorized by anyone other than the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. Now the protests have spread to Canada too.

The Israeli Consul General in Toronto, Galit Baram, reported to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem that she has received harsh messages from the Jewish communities in Toronto and Vancouver warning her that the two cabinet decisions made on Sunday will worsen the alienation toward Israel among the younger generation of Canadian Jews.

In a message Baram sent to the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday night with the title: “Suspending the implementation of the Kotel framework – The responses of Toronto and Western Canada,” she wrote the Jewish communities in Tornoto and Vancouver expressed a great deal of anger and disappointment over the decisions. Haaretz has obtained a copy of the cable.

“We are receiving repeated warnings that these decisions will worsen the existing trend of growing and deepening alienation toward Israel among the younger generation,” wrote Baram.

Baram wrote that one of the harshest messages she received came in a telephone conversation she held with the rabbi of the Hillel Society at the University of British Columbia, Rabbi Philip Bregman. He said the decisions harmed the morale of pro-Israel Jewish students and took the wind out of their sails in light of the need to face the anti-Israel BDS activities on campuses, Baram told the Foreign Ministry.

A month ago, in a meeting she held with representatives of Reform movement groups in Canada, a number of speakers said the younger generation is distancing itself from Israel because of the actions of the Israeli government, which is seen as no longer representing the principles of Tikkun Olam, openness and equality they grew up on, she wrote.

Baram noted that the day after the cabinet meeting at which the decisions were reached, she received a harsh letter from three large Jewish organizations affiliated with the Reform movement in Canada. It included statements such as the principle of being a free nation in our land, as the national anthem Hatikva states, was sold to maintain a weak coalition government, and Jewish unity is one of the foundations of Zionism, and has been damaged severely by these decisions.

A few hours after the cabinet decision, Baram said she received an email from one of the leaders of the Reform movement in Canada, Rabbi Michael Dolgin of the Temple Sinai Congregation in Toronto. Dolgin told her that he was pained because the Israeli government forced Jews in the Diaspora to form a broad coalition to publically express their dissatisfaction with the government and distance itself from Israel, asking how long the non-Zionist and anti-democratic parties will continue to lead the country.

Baram said the Jewish Federations of Canada had released a statement expressing their worries about the freezing of the Kotel agreement and the changes in conversion policy. The Jewish Federation of Vancouver also sent Baram a letter of protest. Another such letter arrived from the president of the Canadian Zionist Federation Les Rothschild. He said Canadian Jewry is a faithful supporter of the Zionist enterprise guaranteeing that Israel is a national home for the Jewish people, and the recognition that the Israeli government is not a partner to this view weakens their hand.

The rabbi of the largest Reform congregation in Toronto, Rabbi Dow Marmur of Holy Blossom Temple, released a position paper in which he said that “Our greatest worry should be that many young Jews in the United States and elsewhere in the Diaspora, who’re already lukewarm about Israel, will now claim a valid reason to withdraw altogether.”