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In Today’s Israel, Judaism Is A "Registered Trademark," Declares HUC’s Jerusalem Dean

Allan Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
January-February 1999

Decrying the lack of religious freedom in Israel for non-Orthodox branches of Judaism, Rabbi Michael Marmur, dean of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem, declares: "In today’s Israel, Judaism is a registered trademark, and anyone making use of it is expected to pay royalties...The decision to treat liberal Jews as carriers of an infectious disease is designed to keep the required distance between the real thing and the imitation. After all, the argument goes, we would not expect the president of Coca-Cola to attend the product launch of some low-class beverage or to accept such manufacturers onto the Cola Regulation Board."  

Writing in The Jerusalem Post (Jan. 29, 1999), Rabbi Marmur notes that, "The argument of Reform and Conservative Jews with this kind of thinking is that it betrays arrogance and ignorance. The idea that a certain group holds the exclusive franchise on Judaism is insupportable...We cannot simply succumb to the notion that for Jews in Israel, there is only one game in town — Monopoly. There are many indications that Israelis are searching for new ways to express themselves as Jews. As long as the state and the local authorities distribute resources to meet religious needs, we have to press our claim for diversity and choice."  

Criticizing Israel’s Ministry of Religious Affairs and its one-sided support for Orthodox Judaism, Rabbi Marmur concludes: "The gulf between money pumped into Jewish institutions and that set aside for Christian and Moslem causes is nothing short of scandal. If there is to be a Ministry of Religious Affairs, it should promote more than just one version of one religion. If Judaism can only be advanced through inequality, something has gone terribly wrong. The value of accountability, accessibility, transparency and democracy need to be brought to bear in the corridors of our religious establishment..."  

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