Nov 30, 2009

Masorti Foundation: Thousands Turn Out to Rally for Religious Freedom

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the masorti (conservative) movement in israel - promoting religious pluralism and building community through inclusive, traditional, egalitarian Judaism
Jerusalem march -- 11-28-09
Dear Friends,
           We wrote to you last week about the planned march in Jerusalem in response to the arrest at the Kotel of Nofrat Frenkel. It was held right after Shabbat. Israeli media reported between 2,000 and 3,000 participated; that number included 400-500 from Masorti, an impressive turnout, given that those further away could not make it because of Shabbat.
            I now share with you, below, a report on the march by Yizhar Hess, Executive Director of Masorti in Israel. In photos taken that evening, you will note that Rabbi Barry Schlesinger and Nofrat Frenkel are using hand held loudspeakers. That is because someone cut the wires to the speaker system.
            In a related story, YNET reported over the weekend that in the siddurim (all Orthodox) in use at the main Kotel plaza, someone has torn out the "Zionist pages" that deal with prayers for the State of Israel or for the soldiers of the IDF.
            We should be proud of our Masorti community in Israel for asserting, on behalf of Jews everywhere, the right to religious freedom and tolerance in Israel. We need to help them with all the financial support we can provide.
David H. Lissy
Executive Director & CEO
Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel
To the Members of the Masorti Movement and Its Supporters,
Last night in Jerusalem, at the conclusion of Shabbat, as I stood on the dais and looked out at the thousands of people present (well over 2,000 even by modest estimates), I could not help but feel a sense of overwhelming pride. Even as we marched from Paris Square, down Ben-Yehudah Street, on our way to Zion Square, one could already sense it in the air – yet from above on the dais it was palpable and even more evident: hundreds of tee-shirts, worn by Masorti participants, emblazoned with the words "The Kotel for All" (using both the masculine and feminine forms of the Hebrew); so many  NOAM shirts; dozens of signs with original slogans, along with the NOAM emblem; and the wonderful feeling at this important demonstration – there we were as members of the Masorti movement, a large and significant presence, perhaps the largest contingent. Our voices were heard, and we were ever so visible, both on the dais and in the throng.

Rabbi Barry Schlesinger at J-slem March, 11-28-09
Our congregations, even those outside of Jerusalem, were well represented. There were members from our communities in Haifa, Tel Aviv, Rehovot, Modiin, Kfar Sabba, Raanana, Maccabim, Beer Sheva, Kibbutz Hannaton and elsewhere. This was in addition to the many NOAM members and alumni who simply heard about the rally and came to be with us.
Our journey to realizing all of our aspirations in Israel is still quite long. We are still at the beginning. But through demonstrations and marches such as that last night, we will progress on our path toward tikkun olam, repairing the world. We were asked to turn out for this march, and indeed we did so. We made clear to all, through our participation, that Jerusalem really does belong to us all. Social change begins from the place people begin to march forward.

Nofrat Frenkel at J-slem March, 11-28-09
When Abraham Joshua Heschel, the prominent philosopher and theologian who so influenced generations of Conservative rabbis who studied with him at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, returned to his home after joining with the Rev. Martin Luther King in the famous march for civil rights in Selma, Alabama in 1965, Rabbi Heschel summarized his experience in his personal diary as follows: "I felt as though I was praying with my feet…"
So too was last night much more than a simple march. It was prayer in motion. We established that for the sake of Zion we shall not be silent.
I wish to express my gratitude to all who enthusiastically volunteered in the organization of the demonstration; to lend my endorsement to the wise and  meaningful words of Rabbi Barry Schlesinger and Nofrat Frankel who spoke as Masorti movement representatives; and to give a warm embrace to the Masorti and NOAM staffs, who dedicated themselves with such a deep sense of faithfulness to the cause.
Yizhar Hess
Executive Director & CEO
Masorti Movement in Israel

To learn more, please contact:
Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel
475 Riverside Drive, Suite 832
New York, NY 10115-0068
(212) 870-2216; 1-877-287-7414;

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