Last night (Thursday, Feb 2nd) 100 rabbinical leaders - 80 men and 20 women - gathered at the Blue Bay hotel in Netanya, Israel. The purpose was the founding of a new rabbinical forum by the name "Beit Hillel - Attentive Rabbinical Leadership".
Anyone following the news in Israel over the past few months has no doubt been stunned by some of the expressions of some rabbis and religious groups - "soldiers must leave a performance with women even if a firing squad is waiting outside", turning a blind eye to "price tag" vandalism, the Beit Shemesh events, etc...
The primary purpose of the forum is to represent a different rabbinical voice than the one drawing attention in Israeli media. To represent what is felt to be the majority of the Religous Zionist community which believes in a Torah which is inclusive, not divisive. Open and inviting, not closed and rejecting.
Excerpts from the founding document:
"We believe in the inclusion of women in public leadership roles. In this spirit we have chosen to be the first Orthodox rabbinical organization open to women who are Talmidot Chachamim and spiritual leaders"
"We see ourselves as an inseparable part of Israeli society... criticism through love... our purpose is to uplift Israeli society from inside, not the outside.
"We view modernity and its innovations as positive... within advancements in society, science, technology and culture there is both good and bad... our way is to choose the good from the bad"
"In our generation, general studies are essential in creating the character of a believing Jew"
"We are dedicated to The State of Israel and think that its continued existence and success are essential for the development of the Jewish People"
"We are of the opinion that these principles are accepted by the majority of religious society, who are full partners in The State of Israel and Israeli society. We aspire to give a loud voice to the silent majority.
"As the historical Beit Hillel we accept upon ourselves an attentive and open discourse also towards opinions we do not identify with".
Last night was more about meeting and starting a conversation about our goals, purposes, target audiences, etc... It's exciting to be part of something with such good, positive and lofty ideals and ideas. I truly hope we can reach our goals as I think it will be for the betterment of Torah, Israeli society, the Jewish world and beyond.