The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) hosted a Roundtable Forum on Sunday to discuss issues of religion and state in Israel, focusing on the Shabbat, conversions and marriage.
Although the institute maintains that it 'seeks to involve all sectors within Israeli society in dialogue concerning these all-important national dilemmas," the Masorti movement in Israel, which is affiliated with Conservative Judaism, claims that the institute systematically excludes representatives of the Masorti and Reform movements in Israel from such forums.
The movement's Executive Director Yizhar Hess and its president, Rabbi Barry Schlesinger, sent a letter to IDI's president Dr. Arye Carmon on Sunday in which they strongly protested the institute's failure to invite Masorti and Reform representatives to the meeting.
"Is it even conceivable that on such matters as conversions or civil marriages the opinion of the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism will not be heard?," they asked in the letter, stating that the two movements "have converted and married off thousands of people in Israel, they deal with the complex reality of the relations between state and religion on a daily basis, and represent a wide public in Israel and a huge public across the world."
'Systematical exclusion as a worldview'
The letter also noted that the IDI did not invite the two movements to a conference on "Zionist Halacha" held earlier this year, to which politicians, Orthodox rabbis and non-religious academics had been invited. "This is proof of systematic exclusion as a worldview," the letter asserted.
Hess and Schlesinger also protested the notion by which Orthodox-secular dialogue was sufficient to resolve state and religion affairs. They warned that "this exclusion serves them (the Orthodox) first and foremost," and wondered, "Why should the Israel Democracy Institute accept such an approach? Are you not bound by academic integrity and professional ethics? Would the Roundtable not have been richer had everyone's voice been heard around it?"
The IDI said in response: "The discussions will focus on the arrangements that are currently being negotiated in the coalition talks. These arrangements are the consequence of the current real political powers in Israel, hence the makeup of the participants."