Yair Lapid's 'Jewish Home' Is a Reform Synagogue in Tel Aviv

Rabbi of Beit Daniel says he has great expectations that Lapid will 'bring the values of an inclusive, progressive Judaism to bear.'

In a 2008 column in Yedioth Ahronoth, Yair Lapid wrote of his search for a synagogue.

The TV personality and columnist wrote that he had not yet found his ideal "Israeli" house of worship, but that he had been attending the Reform movement's Beit Daniel synagogue in Tel Aviv for many years. No, he wrote, I am not Reform nor am I entirely sure what progressive Judaism is. Lapid explained that, in his view, Reform was basically an American movement dedicated to curbing assimilation, a nonstarter for most Israeli parents, whose children are not likely to suddenly declare their affinity for Christianity.

In fact, the son of the late chairman of the secularist Shinui party held a naming ceremony for one of his sons at Beit Daniel and celebrated his children's coming-of-age in bar mitzvah ceremonies there.

Lapid has written that he has an affinity for the ancient Jewish texts and bemoaned the role of pop music and Yehuda Amichai poetry in the Reform liturgy. "When I want to hear [popular Israeli singer] Yehudit Ravitz, I go to her concert at Zappa, not to the holy ark," he wrote in reference to a chain of local clubs.

Lapid has written frequently in his weekly newspaper column of his warm relationship with Beit Daniel and of feeling at home in a synagogue without a separate women's section. Lapid called Beit Daniel "a place that is friendly to its surroundings (and groundings) through whose gates and measures any Jew can pass, enabling you to come in contact with your traditions without constantly being chastised."

In the preface to one of his books, Lapid wrote that he is secular and has no rabbi, but that if he had a rabbi, it would be Beit Daniel's Rabbi Meir Azari. Azari, for his part, takes pride in being the first to bring Lapid to the bimah of a synagogue. "I was proud to open our synagogue to Yair Lapid, and to help him to discover pluralism in Judaism and new horizons and ideas," Azari said Thursday.

Lapid's involvement at Beit Daniel has continued over the years, and the charismatic TV personality has made several appearances at the pulpit there. Lapid is often a big draw at Beit Daniel's popular Shavuot midnight study sessions.

Azari, who considers Lapid a friend as well as part of the Beit Daniel circle, said he has great expectations that Lapid will "bring the values of an inclusive, progressive Judaism to bear, and use his political clout to fight for the Jewish character of Israel."

Reform and Conservative Jews.
Illustration by Ruth Gvili