Members of the Progressive Judaism in Israel movement left the High Court of Justice this week smiling from ear to ear. They almost always leave the court smiling. Only less progressive Jews tend to leave the court upset.
The reason this time: A panel of three judges ordered the State to fund the private conversion facilities of the Progressive Judaism movement in addition to the private institutions of Orthodox Jewry.
"One cannot ignore the fact that against the backdrop of the petition we see principled questions that go to the heart of the entire nation in respect to the question of conversion," wrote the judges, yet nonetheless they ignored it. Those who compare a Reform conversion to a regular conversion certainly ignore principled questions that go to the heart of the nation. For example the question of what a gentile needs to do in order to become Jewish.
The Orthodox have a simple answer for this question; a 3,000-year-old answer: Such person must adhere to the Torah and mitzvot, undergo a circumcision ceremony (women are exempt,) and perform ritual immersion in the mikvah. According to the Reform movement, however, it is enough to adhere to some of the mitzvot, even to a symbolic extent.
Disrespecting ancient rulesIn their flashy website it says that aside from going to the mikvah and undergoing circumcision, one may adhere to mitzvot in line with his personal ability to adhere to them in light of circumstances of time or place. That is, if a convert finds it difficult to keep the Shabbat or fast on Yom Kippur, he need not do it. Such person would also be exempt in cases where a mitzvah contradicts his conscience.
This is a sad joke, which the High Court of Justice treats seriously. The Reform movement insists on entering the Judaism club without respecting its ancient rules of acceptance. They are allowed to form their own club with new rules, yet they insist on pushing their way into the old club, in order to enjoy its historic reputation.
Through a sophisticated public relations campaign, the Reform movement creates the impression that it is a mass movement, while it is in fact an insignificant group. In the assimilated America it has many fans, yet in Israel it comprises a very small group of people.
Had the High Court ordered to fund the movement's conversion facilities in line with the number of its synagogues (less than 0.5% of all synagogues in Israel,) the cost would have totaled a maximum of a few hundred shekels. Yet the Reform movement does not want money, it wants symmetry. And the High Court gods granted it.