Would Ruth Be Jewish Today?

One week and 27 years ago I attended a group Bnai Mitzvah service in Kiryat Gat, Israel. It was my junior year at Hebrew University and I volunteered once a week at a home for kids from disadvantaged homes training them for their Bnai Mitzvah. the portion was Bamidbar, the week before Shavu'ot, and the kids were great. The event was publicized in the local press and an Orthodox rabbi came to extend his blessings. He connected the Bnai Mitzvah to the theme of Shavuot - the receiving of the Torah - and then said how the Conservative Movement destroys Judaism.

27 years later there is still an attitude of intolerance in the State of Israel. There is a Bill currently under discussion that would authorize all conversions to be handled by the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate and which would take away or not grant citizenship to non-Orthodox converts. After several meeting with Diaspora Jewish leaders, the author of the bill has refused to retract it.

The Book of Ruth which is read on Shavu'ot describes the life of Ruth, the first convert to Judaism. She claims to her mother in law Naomi, "wherever you go I will go, your God is my God and your people are my people." This is a beautiful sentiment which tragically would be insufficient for her to convert to Judaism in Israel today!

If only Religion and State could be separated in Israel. Let the State determine citizenship and let individual rabbis and denominations determine identity. Then and only then will Israel truly be a home for all Jews.


  1. Thank you Rabbi for your insightful comments.

    Here's some interesting statements by MK Rotem:

    MK David Rotem also insisted that his bill “has nothing to do with American conversions. I think they are fighting a war for the wrong purpose.”

    “I don’t need their support,” he insisted. “I don’t like it when people tell me that their support for the State of Israel hangs on this. This is what I was told. ... I don’t like those kind of threats.”

    Joel Katz
    Religion and State in Israel


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