Photo Credit: Knesset
The Holy Ark in the Knesset synagogue.

American rabbinical students from the Conservative movement studying in Israel were prevented from holding afternoon prayers with men and women together in the Knesset synagogue, JTA reported.

Haaretz reported that the decision was handed down by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, and the students were offered alternative place to pray. Reform and Reconstructionist students also were in the group at the Knesset, where the synagogue is designated as Orthodox.


“A lot of the students were very upset and shocked,” said Rabbi Joel Levy, director of the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, who submitted the request on behalf of the students, told Haaretz. “You’d think that the Knesset would be a place of ingathering of the Jewish people, but actually we learned that it has boundaries that don’t include liberal Jews. Paradoxically, this decision served as an appropriate end to our conversation about religion and state in Israel.”

(One wonders if they are equally as upset and shocked that no Jews are allowed to pray on Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount.)

So here we go again. The Knesset implicitly a place that is not for the “ingathering of the Jewish people” because the synagogue is Orthodox.

Not only that, but “liberal Jews” are not allowed.

The minute they throw around the term “egalitarian prayers,” Orthodoxy has three strikes against it.

Once Judaism is defined by secular values, it becomes a monopoly of the liberals, who are tolerant of everyone who accepts them and then close the doors on anyone who challenges their power.

Power is what the argument is all about. It is the same issue that is behind the Women of the Wall movement, which gathered hundreds of thousands of supporters in the United States but which in practice cannot come up with more than a few dozen people –perhaps 100 on a sunny day – to demonstrate,  whoops – pray,  at the Western Wall once a month.

So here comes the Masoriti movement to the Knesset, where it wants their students to have a real spiritual experience and pray – men and women together – in the legislature’s synagogue.

When the Orthodox Jews set the rules, it is called a monopoly.

When the “liberals” set the rules, it is called democracy.

It would be interesting to know if the students at the Knesset have an afternoon prayer service every day, or is it only when they visit the Knesset?

And if they do, why cannot they respect the sanctity of the lace where there is a minyan of Jews every day, three times a day, instead of grabbing headlines for their “egalitarian” agenda that they think is “modern” and superior?

Okay. We gave them their headlines, just like we did with the Women of the Wall.

I wish the students an enjoyable visit in Israel but ask, “Why is it that Orthodox Jews make up such large numbers of those who move to Israel?”

Do the Reform and Conservative Jews visit Israel and go “home” because there is no mixed seating in the Knesset synagogue?



  1. "When the Orthodox Jews set the rules, it is called a monopoly.
    When the “liberals” set the rules, it is called democracy."

    If adherents of Conservative/Reform wish to set up their own Torah and their own Halacha, as they have for nearly 300 years, clearly no one is stopping them.

    However if they cannot even respect and observe the fundamental rules of a place in the Knesset established and maintained under Orthodox auspices for the benefit of all Jews, then they have a problem far worse than where to pray.

  2. The truth is that Conservative & Reform Jews are bleeding as their
    members intermarry . The question to be asked if they are legitimate forms of Judaism why can't they persuade non-Jewish partners to convert ?

  3. Tzvi,
    I'm a long time subscriber to the Jewish Press and this article is one of the most obnoxious I have seen in its pages. You the Jewish Press as a “religious Jewish website” but you have a large readership that is not religious. As such it behooves you to at the very least be a mensch towards your co-religionists.
    We Conservative and Reform Jews are just as fervently Zionists as you are. We may be more inclusive and liberal than you, but we don’t go out of our way to insult you for your narrow views.
    You are entitled to your views and practices as we are to ours. We subscribe to our views based on teachings that may not mesh with yours, but we hold them to be valid as you hold yours. We may both be surprised by which view was more correct when we meet the almighty. Until then neither one of us has the only truth on our side.
    Having said that let me remind you that the synagogue in question is in the Knesset which is a public building. It is in the akin to the US Capital Building, also known as the Peoples House. Therefore the Knesset is the Israeli Peoples House. It was built with taxes paid by the citizens of Israel, orthodox and non-orthodox Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze, etc. And just to be a little snotty like you, the non-orthodox paid the great majority of the taxes.
    As I understand the situation, the Masoriti group only wanted to hold services in the synagogue. They did not demand that the orthodox members participate in an egalitarian service. They did not plan on desecrating the synagogue in any manner or form such as tearing down a mehitzah if one actually exists. Nor were they planning a non-kosher Kiddush afterwards.
    Many of my extended family are orthodox and I have prayed with them many time. I have yet to see a daily service that lasts more than 90 minutes. If it was not there is no “monopoly of the Orthodox Jews” then it should have been resolved rather easily. After your orthodox service ends the synagogue is empty and should have been available to the non-orthodox. We read from the same Torah and I assure you we can even pray using your prayer books.
    At these dangerous times for Israel and the Jewish people; when anti-Semitism is raging and the BDS movements is gaining strength around the world, do you really think it’s a good idea to alienate your fellow Zionist Jews? This Shabbat you should pray for forgiveness for your lashon a rah.
    Shabbat Shalom,
    Zvi E.

  4. I was under the impression that the holiness of a Jewish place of worship is defined by its purpose at the moment. Other than the political issue of denominational legitimacy , why isn't it irrelevant to the Orthodox minyan in the Knesset how a group of Conservative Jews use the space as long as the latter are not destructive and use it at a different time?

  5. The Israeli government officially recognizes only Orthodox Jews, and every other kind – from totally irreligious to the Reform, Liberal, Masorti, and Conservative – is counted as "secular"; that's the big reason that the population statistics are so skewed, 5% religious, 95% secular. And the non-Orthodox get almost none of the government support that is available not just to Orthodox but to Christians and Muslims.

    It may not matter very much to the members of the Knesset, but to the very large number of non-Orthodox Jews in the English-speaking world it has an effect. It definitely slows down their donations and their support for an Israel that treats them as black sheep. And how long before that 95% in Israel shows its own grievances.

  6. [Surak] That 5% Orthodox number may be what they are teaching at the Catholic University of America, but it's not an actual fact. By the way, 61% of Jewish children in New York City are Orthodox. Fact. The skewing is in power directed towards non-observant Jews. Finally, the numbers are moving in the right direction, however.

  7. As a Jew who's been involved in Reform, Masorti and Orthodox shuls, I really don't understand the big deal here with separating men and women during prayer. The general rule has been, in my experience, that everyone follow the strictest halacha represented by a mixed group. That would be the Orthodox customs in this case. But overriding this, and also an issue with WOW, would the liberals take issue with the fact that the 2nd Temple separated men and women? Indeed, what would G-d prefer?

  8. Wendi Higgins They are allowed in,however they can not come in & demand changes to the customs & rules of the place.If they respect that men & women are seperate during services as has been the Jewish way way for thousands of years they are more then welcome,but if they wish to bring in practices which they took from Christian churches they are not.

  9. I disagree with you about getting practices from Christian churches and that women and men didn't pray together for thousands of years when the two genders weren't separate at HaKotel upon Israel's statehood. Regardless, it's a shame they couldn't pray there or that an agreement couldn't be sorted out.

  10. Wendi Higgins That is because the Kotel wasn't under Israel's control,but in Europe even Reform temples had seperate seating the mixed seating was introduced in America by Jews who wanted be be more like their Goyishe neighbors,furthemore even though there was no mechitza before Israel controled it men & women stood seperate, Jewish law requires seperation of sexes during services (Talmud Tractate Sukkah 51b,52a). Not that they couldn't pray there but they wanted to push their Christianized practices on an Israeli shul. FYI,Even the most secular Israelis have no use for Reform & Conservative & see it as an American joke & if they do attend shul they attend a proper traditional shul not a place that apes a Christian church. Also the cantor facing towards the people with his tuchis towards the ark also comes from Christian churches. Obviously you are not a practicing religious Jew or you would know this.

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