Ordaining women Rabbis
Photo: Avi Hayun
Conservative synagogue with mixed seating
Photo: Yisrael Bardugo
54%: Women discriminated against in Jewish tradition
According to survey conducted by Masorti Movement in Israel, 87% of public support gender equality, but only 24% of seculars would attend synagogue more often if partitions separating men and women were removed

Eighty-seven percent of the public believe that nominal gender equality is entirely justified, and 54% claim that Jewish tradition discriminates against women — this according to a survey conducted by the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel this week on the occasion of the organization's 30th birthday.


The movement is testing the Israeli public's attitude vis-à-vis Judaism and equality between the sexes. Despite the fact that a decided majority of the public proclaimed the necessity of legal equality, 71% of secular Israeli Jews said that mixed seating in synagogue would not influence their decision whether to attend.


Meanwhile, 24% of seculars and 18% of 'traditional' Israelis said that eliminating the gender barrier in places of worship would in fact make them more likely to attend prayer services.


Dr. Mina Tzemach's Dahaf Institute conducted the survey of 500 participants who constituted a representative sample of Israel's adult Jewish population.


Although 54% believe that Jewish tradition discriminates against women, 39% are of the opinion that discrimination doesn't exist, and another 4% claim that Judaism holds women above men.


What of the difference between Conservative and Reform Jews? Eighty-two percent of the public is aware that there are differences between the two religious streams. Concerning the differences, seculars are most unaware- 24% believe that there is no distinction or have not heard of the two groups.


Twenty-three percent of haredim told Dahaf that Reform Jews were "worse than gentiles" and "cause damage that will last for generations", and an additional 15% said that their ways constitute "sleight of hand".


Committed to Jewish law and reality

President of the Israeli Conservative Rabbinate Rabbi Barry Schlesinger told Ynet that the Masorti Movement has great prospects for succeeding in Israel: "The public finds in us a group of people committed both to preserving the halachic (Jewish-legal) tradition and working to adapt it to reality."


Regarding the survey, which indicates that eliminating gender boundaries in houses of worship will not encourage the majority of secular Israelis to attend synagogue, Schlesinger said: "Secular Israelis want equality in theory, not in practice… It's like running a marathon. The Masorti Movement is a laboratory in which every one of those surveyed can fulfill the desire for equality."


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