Which nation has the least religious freedom for non-Orthodox Jews in the Western world? The answer may surprise you.

In the October/November issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Allan Brownfeld reported on a Washington Jewish Week editorial on Aug. 1 titled "Everyone rabbis?" The editorial was about the election of two very conservative Orthodox Jewish candidates to be the chief rabbis of Israel, and it stated: "A significant portion of Israeli Jews will remain shut out of Judaism. And the subtext of the message to an overwhelming number of Diaspora Jews is, 'Your beliefs are not welcome here.'"

Brownfeld, editor of Issues, the quarterly journal of the American Council for Judaism, added: "In Israel, there is less religious freedom for non-Orthodox Jews than anyplace in the Western world."

He pointed out that Conservative and Reform rabbis have no right to perform weddings or funerals, and their conversions are not recognized. Brownfeld additionally stated that Conservative and Reform Jews have been prohibited from holding services at the Western Wall on the grounds that they violate Orthodox norms regarding the non-participation of women. Brownfeld concluded that Orthodox Judaism is, in effect, the state religion.

This control by the Orthodox rabbis is frustrating to many Israeli Jews since the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox together account for only about 20 percent of the Israeli Jewish population.


Unsurprisingly, similar to other nations, there are also other types of discrimination in Israel today. For example, Jews with European lineage sometimes have discriminatory attitudes towards Jews of Middle Eastern and North African heritage. Discrimination against women is also an issue, particularly in the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox areas.

Discrimination against non-Jews, particularly Palestinians, living in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, is widespread. According to U.S. State Department reports, the Israeli government has done little to reduce institutional, legal and societal discrimination against its Arab citizens. Israeli treatment of African refugees is also very problematic. (For more on Israeli racism, visit wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism_and_ethnic_discrimination_in_Israel.)

Max Blumenthal has written a new book "Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel." Noted reporter and author Chris Hedges calls the book "one of the most fearless and honest books ever written about Israel. Blumenthal burrows deep into the dark heart of Israel."

Blumenthal will discuss this book at the Boulder Friends Meetinghouse, 1825 Upland Ave., Boulder, at 7 p.m. on Nov. 15. All are welcome.

The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" column runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.