The closing session of Jewish Peoplehood week was devoted to the question: "what does it means to be a Jew in modern-day Israel?"
MK Ruth Calderon, editor Yoav Sorek, and Rabbi Haim Amsalem each presented his or her personal view about being a Jew in contemporary Israel, challenging sectarian views about Judaism so commonplace in Israel.
“The greatest ideal is to study," said MK Ruth Calderon. "Don't become entrenched through ignorance. Make the public domain in Israel richer, more interesting, more alive,” she said.
Calderon offered an example of how Torah-based values, in this case
shmita [the sabbatical year], can become manifest in modern-day public life in Israel. She cited a program which she and other colleagues in the Knesset are promoting to write off the debts of 10,000 needy families in Israel with the assistance of non-profit organizations dedicated to financial rehabilitation reminiscent of the Biblical practice of releasing debtors of their obligations on the sabbatical year.
Rabbi Haim Amsalem, a former Shas MK who left the party, said that his ideal was to engage in “Kiddush Hashem” [sanctification of God's name] on the issue of conversion. He described the conversion issue as very complicated and “more volatile than the Iranian nuclear program.”
Amsalem spoke about his efforts to promote a moderate Judaism in the spirit of Sephardic Jewry, which is accepting and open to every Jew, irrespective of his or her religious observance.
Journalist and editor Yoav Sorek said that his ideal was figuring out “how to be a Jew in Israel.” He said that Zionism needed to realize that it was merely a contemporary manifestation, and that without Judaism, Zionism had no justification to exist. At the same time, Sorek said, Judaism had to adapt to modern times. He said that discourse was only now beginning to develop in Israel on the question of “what Judaism is in the Zionist sense, and what Zionism is in the Jewish sense.”
Rabbi Haim Amsalem: To sanctify God's name on the issue of conversion
Yoav Sorek: To discover how to be a Jew in Israel
MK Ruth Calderon: To study and not become entrenched through ignorance