Agudath Israel Of America: ‘Jewish Pluralism’ Undermines True Jewish Unity


In advance of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s address to the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly, that group passed a resolution on “Jewish pluralism” in Israel, opposing a bill to enshrine a single conversion standard in the country and asserting that the Israeli Government’s decision to freeze an agreement about the Western Wall has “deep potential to divide the Jewish people.”

It is sadly ironic, although not surprising, that leaders of heterodox movements that have in fact undermined true Jewish unity and continuity by inviting intermarriage and breaking away from the Jewish religious heritage have of late been lecturing others about Jewish unity.

More disappointing still are the unity-cries of the Jewish Federation movement. The historic role of Jewish federations has been to provide support and solace for disadvantaged or endangered Jews and to mobilize the community to come to Israel’s aid when it is threatened. Taking sides in religious controversies anywhere, and certainly in Israel, egregiously breaches the boundaries of that role.

The Jewish Federations of North America, moreover, has traditionally sought to represent all of American Jewry, but here it entirely ignores the feelings of the substantial and growing American Orthodox community.

The Reform and Conservative movements, despite their great efforts over decades, have few adherents in Israel. Most of their members do not visit or settle in Israel, nor do they visit the Western Wall in large numbers. And yet their leaders seem prepared to offend the religious sensibilities of their Orthodox brethren, who regularly visit and move to Israel, and who come to the Kotel to pour out their hearts to G-d there. A holy place should not be balkanized, nor wielded as a tool to advance partisan social goals.

And the patchwork of standards for conversion that exist in America has created an Ameican Jewish landscape where those who respect halacha as the ultimate arbiter of personal status cannot know who is in fact Jewish. Creating in Israel a multiplicity of “Jewish peoples,” as is the tragic reality in America, would not foster unity but its opposite.

To our dear Jewish brothers and sisters, we say: Please do not push for changes at the Kotel that will only cause discord and pain to the vast majority of Jews who worship there. And please realize that the conversion standards that have ensured Jewish unity for millennia are the only ones that can preserve it for the future.

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)


  1. “pluralism” is the word that the reform deform groups use when they say they should have equal acceptance and goyim should be accepted as full Jews, or homosexuals should have full acceptance or women should get alliyahs and daven at the amud.

    However when it come to accepting the Orthodox, they do not believe in “pluralism” rather they want us OUT!

    the deform reform movements are burning with anger since they are loosing their youth to intermarriage and to the youth not being interested in a religious movement that has nothing of religion in it. All they have is money to wave in front of the Zionist parties.

    Soon they will rot in hell. What can we do?

  2. If you consider non-Orthodox Jews to be “Jews” than one needs “pluralism” to have “unity.” While halacha considers anyone with matrilineal Jewish ancestry to be Jewish (even if the individual has considered him or herself to be a Christian for many generations, and has no ties to Judaism), a more practical definition would focus on keeping Shabbos and kashrus – since those two mitzvos more than the rest define membership in the Jewish community. Shabbos means having to live in walking distance of a shul, and limiting yourself to a not overly large subset of economic life (exclusing one self from jobs that either require working on Shabbos, or require living outside a frum community). Kashrus means having to live where kosher food is available, and excluding oneself from any aspect of society in which food is important but kosher food is not available. If you define “Jewish” based on halachic observance, rather than on the halachic definition, the “pluralism” is a problem but it includes persons with Jewish ancestry (and almost all Reform and Conservative Jewish have Jewish ancestors, even though many are halachically considered to be goyim) who aren’t Jewish (if one uses a Shabbos/Kashrus definition).

    While a functional definition of the Jewish community as we see is based halachic observances, it raises problems. In America, we shrink from a large affluent well connected minority of 2%, to a much small, much less affluent, and socially marginalized minority of of at most half a percent. Instead of having a Jewish majority in Eretz Yisrael, Jews become a minority.

    I agree with Agudah that “pluralism” is bad, but we should understand that by defining “Jewish” to exclude the Reform and Conservatives, and the many “unaffiliated” who are “less than Reform”, we are left with a much weaker Jewish community.