Challenges for the Jewish People


 A Message from Arlene Miller, President & CEO

In a little over a week, I’m leaving on a Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) leadership mission to Ukraine and Israel along with our Jewish Federation & Family Services (JFFS) Board Co-Chair Lori Schwartz. I’ll be sharing more about the trip with you from the ground. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the privilege of being back in Israel.

It seems like it’s always an interesting time to be in Israel. And, it’s understandable. As a relatively young nation (Israel is 69 years young compared to America, turning 241 next week), there are naturally challenges that arise as she matures. This past week was no exception.

On Sunday, The Government of Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation gave approval for a draft bill that would for the first time ever give the Chief Rabbinate a monopoly on conversion in Israel.  The Government also reached a decision to suspend or freeze a 2016 resolution on egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall (Kotel). 

Over the last week, Jewish Federations of North America leaders, in partnership with Natan Sharansky and The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), held meetings with dozens of Israel officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, members of Knesset (Israel’s legislature), and Israeli ministers, and worked closely with religious movements and many Israel-based organizations. The prime minister and government leaders listened intently and understood concerns that these developments represent an existential threat to Diaspora Jewry. 

Here’s where things stand now:

The Conversion Bill
The Government of Israel has agreed not to move the controversial conversion legislation forward for six months. The Reform movement has agreed to freeze their Supreme Court petition on the matter for six months (assuming the court will agree), and the prime minister will set up a committee with all parties, to be charged with discussing the issues and challenges and delivering a resolution. There are still differences. But there is a sense of optimism that all may come to a solution so that we do not have to face this tremendous challenge again. You can read more about it in the Times of Israel.

The Kotel
Unfortunately, last Sunday the Government of Israel’s Cabinet decision to freeze the January 2016 agreement to establish an egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel remains in place. However, JFNA efforts — together with The Jewish Agency, the Reform movement, the Conservative movement, and Women of the Wall — will remain bold and strong.

What are we doing? How can you help?
We believe that the promise of the Kotel — “One Wall for One Jewish People” — must be implemented. Our engagement in these discussions represents the JFNA movement at its best. We will continue, under the JFNA umbrella, to advocate for diverse Jewish practice at the Kotel.

Here’s what you can do to help:

  • Call/meet/write – engage our local Israeli Consul General.
  • If you have relationships with Members of Knesset and/or Israeli business/philanthropic influencers, ask them to reach out to Coalition leaders (JFNA, JAFI, the Reform movement, the Conservative movement, and Women of the Wall).
  • If you are already in Israel or traveling imminently, set up meetings to advocate for this issue.
  • If you would like to send a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, please email it to Dani Wassner, Director of Government Relations for JFNA’s Israel Office ( and she will deliver it.

The situation continues to evolve and our communal voice is a vital force. We will keep you updated. 

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Fourth of July,

 Alene Millier

 Arlene Miller


Jewish Federation & Family Services 




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