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RESISTING

Activist: Diaspora Jews ‘have a voice’

The former Women of the Wall activist, arrested five times for protesting for women's rights at the Kotel, will speak in Australia next week for the UIA Progressive Appeal.

Lesley Sachs (right) blows a shofar at the Western Wall.
Lesley Sachs (right) blows a shofar at the Western Wall.

LESLEY Sachs, vice-chair of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), said Jews worldwide can help shape the kind of Israel the next generation will know.

The former Women of the Wall activist, arrested five times for protesting for women’s rights at the Kotel, will speak in Australia next week for the UIA Progressive Appeal.

Sachs will urge Jews to dig deeper, now Israel’s Progressive community stands to lose an estimated $A1.3 million a year under drastic government changes.

Over the years, a number of wins have been achieved for non-Orthodox streams of Judaism and for women in religious life in Israel.

But Sachs said a Knesset veto over selection and dismissal of judges and an override of judgments would undo a lot, and smacks of Hungarian PM Viktor Orban’s war on his country’s courts.

The judicial changes would suit Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, she said. The Progressive movement it shuns has 54 communities, 30 kindergartens, four schools and hundreds of conversions a year.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich “is diverting millions to Charedim”, she said.

Sachs said changing the Law of Return to exclude Jews with only a Jewish grandfather would deny many families aliyah.

But a growing anti-government backlash is mainstreaming.

“Even in Efrat [a religious community], they’re demonstrating,” Sachs said.

The IMPJ is at the vanguard of resisting curbs on freedoms, she said. “Before every Saturday night protest, we make havdalah. We’re bringing a Jewish dimension. We’re saying what the government is doing, ‘that’s not Judaism’. In the name of Judaism, we’ll protect Israeli democracy.”

Sachs said Diaspora Jews have an institutional stake in Israel’s future. “It’s the duty of every Jew in the world to fight for the Israel they’d want to live in.”

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