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Promoting Liberal Orthodoxy

12 August 2010 By New Israel Fund


Promoting Liberal Orthodoxy
Yonatan Benarroch of Ne'emanei Torah V'Avoda 

As a youth in the religious Zionist B’nei Akiva movement, Yonatan Benarroch felt uncomfortable with the increasing extremism of Israel’s religious community.  Yonatan’s consternation at the growing intolerance in his Orthodox community, particularly after Yitzhak Rabin’s murder, intensified his commitment to reviving the liberal Orthodox movement.  Today, he is the chair of Ne'emanei Torah Va'Avoda (NTA), a movement that works toward a more open and humane Orthodoxy.  

“Everything our organization does is closely deeply rooted in Jewish values.  We are deeply committed to empowering a tolerant and pluralistic Judaism, and working with a religious community that is undergoing rapid radicalization, a trend which presents a significant threat to the delicate fabric of Israeli society.  The tikkun I am privileged to experience by virtue of my activities in Ne’emanei Torah Va'Avodah is the close and intense encounter with the representatives of the other denominations (Reform, Conservative and secular leadership).  My role has given me the rare and exciting opportunity to form a true partnership between the Orthodox movement and other, pluralistic movements.  Such collaboration would not naturally exist in the current Israeli reality, and I hope that it will lead to a great connection and affinity between the different movements, and within Israeli society – where divides and dissent are so prevalent.”

An NIF grantee for the last 7 years, Ne'emanei Torah Va'Avoda is a modern orthodox Zionist movement, promoting a moderate worldview and advocating tolerance and openness.  NTA was founded to challenge the growing extremism and Haredi influence in Orthodox Jewry, which threatens the Jewish and democratic identity of Israel, and promote values of tolerance, equality, and justice in religious society.  Its three main objectives are to encourage critical public discourse among the Orthodox, to bring pluralistic values to religious education and to change the structure of religious services in Israel to reflect the community.  It has become one of the leading organizations promoting a range of issues on the liberal Orthodox agenda, including women's rights and expanding women's roles within Judaism.  Today, with Yonatan as chair, NTA is involved in collaborations with Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and secular partners, and is working on the creation of an international alternative religious court for conversions.  Yonatan also worked towards the successful establishment of the first pluralistic cemetery in Jerusalem.