Majority of Israeli Jews Support Equal Rights for Reform Movement, Poll Shows

Over 70 percent disagree with assertions of ultra-Orthodox politicians that Reform Jews are not Jewish, saying they deserve same rights as Orthodox Jews.

American and Israeli Reform rabbis pray in the Western Wall, February 25, 2016.
AP

Nearly two thirds of Israeli Jews say that Reform Judaism deserves rights equal to those afforded to Orthodox Judaism, the news site nrg reported Thursday. 

The Migdam polling agency survey of 500 also showed a 25 percent approval for equality among respondents who defined themselves as religious.

Israel’s predominant Jewish denomination is Orthodox. Though some 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 and the status of the Orthodox chief rabbinate, which operates state-recognized tribunals and whose hundreds of employees are civil servants.

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.

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

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

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

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

Asked whether the Israel Defense Forces should have Reform chaplains in addition to Orthodox ones, 47.9 percent 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.