Conservative Judaism movement criticizes Israeli legal reforms

Judicial reforms undermine the message that Israel is both a Jewish and a democratic state, the movement states.


The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, one of the academic and spiritual centers of Conservative Judaism. Credit: Flickr via patling63.

(JNS) Every organization in the Conservative movement signed a statement on Sunday asserting that the Israeli government’s legal reforms program harms the country’s “democratic character.” The group said it was speaking up out of “grave concern and our deep devotion” to Israel.

“Among the most worrying elements is the so-called ‘override clause’ which would enable a simple majority of the Knesset to overrule Supreme Court decisions,” the group stated. “This would eviscerate the already fragile balance of power between the branches of Israel’s government.”

Weakening Israel’s “highly regarded judicial system” undermines the message that Israel is both a Jewish and democratic state, state the Jewish movement. The group also made an international relations argument. “With the mounting global disapproval of the proposed plan, moving forward risks serious economic, diplomatic and strategic consequences,” it said.

The group noted that it understands the “extraordinary nature of a call by a global movement representing more than 2 million Diaspora Jews regarding an internal matter of the State of Israel.” But it said its love for Israel compelled it to act.

The signatories were MERCAZ Olami, the Rabbinical Assembly, Masorti Olami, the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, MERCAZ Canada, the Cantors Assembly, the Jewish Theological Seminary, NAASE–The North American Association of Synagogue Executives, Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano, the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center, MERCAZ USA, the Jewish Educators Assembly, Masorti Israel and the Schechter Institutes.

According to 2020 Pew Research Center data, 8% of American Jews under 30 identify as Conservative Jews, who make up 17% of all Jews. In 2013, 18% of American Jews identified as Conservative.

Pew added that 41% of those raised as Conservative Jews continue to identify with the movement as adults, and 33% of Conservative Jews said that religion was very important to them. Some 66% of Conservative Jews said caring about Israel is an essential part of being Jewish.