Prayerful Protest: A member of Women of the Wall prays at the Kotel.

Israelis and Americans Back Non-Orthodox Conversion — and Pluralism at Kotel

(JTA) — A large majority of American and Israeli Jews say Israel should recognize marriages and conversions performed by Reform and Conservative rabbis.

A poll conducted by The Jerusalem Post and the American Jewish Committee found that 74 percent of American Jews and 62 percent of Israeli Jews believe the non-Orthodox rites should be recognized. The findings were released Tuesday.

In Israel, the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate controls all religious ceremonies — including marriage, divorce, conversion and burial — and those performed by non-Orthodox clergy are not recognized by the state.

The survey of 1,002 Americans and 500 Israelis also found that a plurality of American Jews, 48 percent, think Orthodox control of the Rabbinate weakens ties between their community and Israel. A similar portion of Israeli Jews, 54 percent, do not want Orthodox control over religious matters in their country.

A majority of both groups, 70 percent for the Americans and 61 percent for the Israelis, favors creating a pluralistic section at the Western Wall plaza for egalitarian services.

In January, the Israeli government approved a compromise deal to expand the non-Orthodox section adjacent to the plaza while also solidifying Orthodox control of the main prayer section. The deal has yet to be implemented.

Fifty-two percent of the Americans polled have never been to Israel.

The Jerusalem Post and the AJC conducted the polling in the United States, and the Rafi Smith Polling Institute conducted the survey in Israel. The poll has a margin of error of 3.57 and 4.5 percent, respectively.


Josefin Dolsten

Josefin Dolsten is a news fellow at the Forward. She writes about politics and culture, and edits the Sisterhood blog. She received an MA in Jewish Studies and Comparative Religion from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a BA in Government from Cornell University. Contact her at and follow her on Twitter at @josefindolsten.

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