An Orthodox Perspective on Religion and State in Israel

A conversation with Rabbi Ariel Picard from the Shalom Hartman Institute.


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As religion and state issues become more and more of a central issue in Israel, there is a noticeable increase of support for freedom of religion that cuts across political and religious boundaries. In this post, Rabbi Dr. Ariel Picard, an Orthodox Rabbi who currently works as the Educational Director of the Be'eri Pluralistic Jewish Education program at the Shalom Hartman Institute, expresses his vision for a Jewish and Democratic state of Israel in which freedom of religion and pluralistic education play a vital role.

Rabbi Picard is not the only Orthodox figure in Israel to endorse freedom of marriage for Israelis. Last June, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin strongly expressed the need for civil marriage and religious tolerance in Israel at the AJC Great Debate with Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev.

Similarly, Hiddush highlighted the work of Professors Avishalom Westreich and Pinchas Shifman, two leading Israeli Orthodox academics who wrote The Civil Framework for Marriage and Divorce in Israel. The paper appears on the website of the Freedom of Marriage World Map.

Israelis from all backgrounds and affiliations support freedom of religion and equality. Their strong desire for a stronger, less coercive Judaism was clearly voiced in the 2013 Knesset elections, but the new government coalition has yet to produce anything that reflects these desperately-needed changes.

Hiddush will continue to work together with concerned individuals and organizations from all denominations and political affiliations, from Israel and the Diaspora, in order to make the Declaration of Independence's promise for freedom of religion and conscience a reality in Israel today.

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