Reform Judaism puts immigration front and center
Tamar Slotzer, a 24-year-old resident of
"My parents are not enthusiastic about my decision to immigrate to
Tamar has already visited
Corey Mikami, 29, is planning to immigrate to
He remembers the year he spent a few years ago at Kibbutz Ketura as "the best year of my life," the formative experience that led to his decision "to continue my life in
Apart from their decision to immigrate to
Born and raised in Reform Jewish families, they were influenced by the Reform environment in which they were raised, including the active presence of the Reform synagogue to which their families belonged.
Corey Mikami's grandfather, Rabbi Walter Rubin, moved from
The synagogue is considered one of the the largest synagogues of the Reform movement in
Corey and Tamar stressed that their decision to immigrate to
"I am more Zionist than religious," said Tamar.
But both express a significant and fascinating change in their attitude, and the approach to Israeli immigration that has recently been felt in the order of priorities of the Refrom movement in the
The immigration emissary in
Most are young people who have already visited
"I do not paint them a picture of a land flowing with milk and honey," says Farjoun. "Anyone who lived here and was part of the Reform community has to hear from me that it won't be possible to get married in
Come a long way
Nevertheless, she says, "as part of those who belong to the Reform movement, the discrimination against the movement in
The Reform movement, which according to the latest studies encompasses 35 percent of affiliated American Jews, has come a long way from when it is was known for its declared alienation to Zionism and the state of Israel.
Now the subject of Zionism and immigration to
In 1978 the movement set up The Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), an organization which serves as the Zionist arm of the movement. It was Rabbi Eric Yoffe who formulated the nature of the organization, and he intensified his presence in the movement's activities.
Yoffe headed ARZA for more than a decade.
However, the first time in the history of the Reform movement that immigration to
A year and a half ago, in the wake of a joint initiative on the part of ARZA and the Jewish Agency, a full-time immigration emissary was appointed whose duty was to promote Israeli immigration among Reform Jews.
The appointment of Liran Gazit - whose expenses are being paid jointly by the Jewish Agency and ARZA - was considered as the first step in cooperation between the agency and the Reform movement with the declared intention of promoting the issue of immigration among the Reform public.
Gazit said that the trend among Reform Jews to immigrate to
More Reform Jews are coming
Statistics since 2003 show that together with the annual growth in general of immigration from North America, there has been a persistent growth in the number of Reform Jews who have immigrated. Some 2,040 North American Jews immigrated in 2003, with 77 defining themselves as Reform.
Among the 3,202 who immigrated to
Parallel to the growth in the number of immigrants from the
However, the first official recognition on the part of the Jewish Agency of the Reform movement as a significant reservoir of immigrants requiring special efforts and resources, was at a meeting that took place last week in New York, the first of its kind: Senior officials of the Reform movement and a group of immigration emissaries of the Jewish Agency from throughout the U.S. came together.
At the meeting, which lasted for two days and was described by the organizers as "historic" and the "occasion of the signing of a covenant" between the Jewish Agency and the Reform movement, problems and issues were discussed and clarified. According to the parties involved, the meeting will strengthen the interest in immigration among Reform Jews, and will bear fruit with an increase in the numbers of their members who immigrate to
"One should not expect masses of Reform Jews to immigrate to
But, he says, "at this stage, more important than the numbers is that the message gets across inside the movement and filters down into the consciousness of the members."
As a result of the latest meeting, Davids says, a work plan has been formulated whose purpose is to assist the emissaries of the Jewish Agency in creating awareness of immigration, and to locate individuals and families that are ready to immigrate.
"In every city and community where an immigration emissary is active, we shall identify and conscript rabbis who will help that emissary," he says.
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