Pushing for More Tolerant Jewish Spaces in Israel

12 May 2017

In an unusual step, a top kashrut official from the Israeli Rabbinate, Rabbi Dr. Oren Duvdevani, left his top post in the Rabbinate to become kashrut supervisor for Hashgacha Pratit (Private Supervision), an organization that advocates an alternative, more meaningful kashrut certificate that, unlike that of the Rabbinate, has no taint of corruption and employs women kashrut supervisors as well as men.

“The Rabbinate’s ineffective kashrut supervision reeks of corruption, nepotism and bribes,” says Yael Yechieli, Shatil’s religious freedom coordinator. “Duvdevani tried for years to change things from the inside but he failed. When someone with his authority and reputation makes this move, it is one more step towards breaking the Rabbinate’s monopoly over Jewish observance in Israel.”

People across the country are challenging the Rabbinate’s system.

Be Free Israel, a NIF grantee, and the Israeli Reform and Conservative movements launched a campaign with banners throughout the country proclaiming the possibility of marriage outside of the Rabbinate, a route more and more young Israelis are taking. “People don’t think it’s possible, but it’s possible,” says Yechieli.

And this week, religious LGBTQ organizations in Israel such as Shoval, Havruta, and NIF grantee Bat Kol, which Shatil guides, are celebrating Pesach Sheni (Second Passover). This is a Torah-mandated holiday for those who couldn’t perform the Passover sacrifice on its original day. The activists have designated it as Religious Tolerance Day. During the week of May 7th – 13th Israelis hosted events in schools, homes, pre-army courses, and religious seminaries planned with the help of an activity guide on Pesach’s Sheni‘s web site.

The invitation on the web site poignantly expresses religious LBGTQ people’s desire for dialogue with their communities:

“We, LGBTQ people who grew up in the religious community, invite you: our family members, friends, acquaintances, the communities in which we grew up, the institutions in which we were educated – pre-army courses, seminaries, ulpanot, and yeshivas – to talk together, to get acquitted and to challenge and ask questions about the place of LGBTQ people in the religious community.”