Convening the Religious Left

26 January 2023

The New Israel Fund supported the first-ever conference for Israel’s religious left on Monday January 23rd in Jerusalem, with over a thousand registrants and over 600 participants in the event, a first-of-its-kind conference was held yesterday uniting justice and peace seeking  religious, ultra-Orthodox, and Masorti Israelis who wish to raise a voice against the actions of the current government.

The conference was initiated by activists independently and without a formal organization behind them. The group included Mikhael Manekin, Michal Tzernowitzki, Aviad Houminer-Rosenblum, Pnina Pfeuffer, Dvir Warshawsky and Shatil’s Brit Yakobi. These activists applied to the NIF and received an emergency grant to assist with the expenses of the conference.

During the event, a variety of people spoke. Attorney Nitzan Caspi Shiloni from the Center for Women’s Justice, referred to the planned reform of the judicial system and said that it would be bad news for women, especially religious women. The current plan would expand the powers of the courts and abolish the authority of the Public Complaints Commission over judges, whose job it is to investigate improper conduct by judges. Under this plan, the court system, which has provided relief to women, will not come to their aid.

Rabbi Leah Shakdiel said: “There are historical moments where it’s black and white — with no gray area. Either we are part of the problem or we are part of the solution. Is Jerusalem the holy city? Of course, but only Zion will be redeemed in justice, justice for all peoples. Security for the Jews? Certainly. But that security will not be achieved by trampling the Palestinian people through force, but rather by a peaceful coexistence between neighbors. Sovereignty? Certainly. But not a sovereignty created through force, rather a sovereignty of responsibility for maintaining a social contract of trust between all people and the government that benefits everyone.”

Whereas Avi Mutaheda, a social activist, from the Shatil-supported Fellowship for Contemporary Traditionalism said in his speech, “Today the traditional sector has become another tool in the chess game of politicians and public figures who are killing the old traditionalism. They are building a new traditionalism in their image. A traditionalism that is didactic and not spiritual. A new traditionalism that eliminates others and dismantles society. And above all, it erases the foundation on which our grandfathers and grandmothers rested — seeing others”

Attendees also participated in discussion circles on various topics including religion and the state; LGBTQ+ rights; peace and an end to the occupation; social economic justice; poverty; youth issues; education; freedom of expression; There was also a Beit Midrash learning session on religious tolerance in the Talmud. Attendees were diverse in every way –  in age, background, and areas of interest.

Participants were eager to keep working on these issues and to promote an initiative that is a home for everyone in the religious space who fight for peace, equality and justice for all. The organizers are now discussing the way to support this work into the future.