Bill Lipsey is an alumnus of Wexner Heritage MetroWest .  Bill and his family moved to Israel for a “year of adventure” last August.  He can be reached at

Arik Einstein, a beloved Israeli performer, sang these words some 20 years ago...  They apply today as much as ever.  After six months of living and being immersed in Israel and her culture, life and rhythms, I am intensely motivated to help be part of the effort to make this change, and I ask you to please consider joining me.

The Lipseys are a little past the halfway point of our year in Israel, and as I have written (, the experience has been beyond anything we could have imagined.

One of the subjects about which I (along with many others) have written is the growing lack of religious freedom in Israel due to the mounting pressures from the Haredi / Ultra-Orthodox segment of society.  This issue is tearing at the social fabric of the country, and left unchecked can easily result in Israel becoming a theocratic state; a place where none of our children, grandchildren, or beyond will be welcome.

I believe there is a moment of opportunity today, before the next round of elections, to impact the country on this issue.  That is why I am writing this now, I want to try to be an agent for change and I believe Israel needs our help.

Israel’s Declaration of Independence, written May, 1948 says; “The State of Israel ... will ensure complete equality of social and political rights of all its inhabitants irrespective of religion ... it will guarantee freedom of religion and conscience.”

Sixty-two years later this expression of religious freedom is but a dream.  The political system here has created a State-sanctioned religion now controlled completely by the Ultra-Orthodox, that by most estimates represents just 8% of Israelis.  But, due to the vagaries of its political system, this group has taken advantage of its State granted religious monopoly and accepts far more of the country’s resources than their fair share.

It is hard to believe that some of the events that have occurred have happened in Israel, but they have -- separate city sidewalks for men and women; public buses where women must sit in a small designated section in the back of the bus, entering only through the rear door; women arrested for holding a Torah or wearing tefillin near the Kotel, Rabbis advocating for a law that exempts rabbis from civil law, ultra-orthodox schools knowingly submitting inflated student rolls to the State in order to collect millions in excess stipends...all of these have and are going on here.

The challenge is big.  The Haredi (ultra-orthodox) community votes as one bloc and in a Parliamentary system like in Israel, this creates significant power.  Allocation of public resources, control over conversion, marriage, divorce, burial, all of these fall under the control of the Haredi Chief Rabbi of Israel, which by the way is a creation / remnant of the Ottoman Empire, not a Jewish structure.

What can we do?  There are Israelis who are seeking to cause this change.  But as with many things they are understaffed and underfunded.  The goal is to build a consortium of people representing Jews who are from reform, conservative and modern orthodox communities, and ultimately from the biggest segment of the Israeli population, the chilonim - secular Jews.

The Israelis working on this issue have a three-part plan:

1. Develop a serious ongoing national public relations and advertising campaign aimed at bringing this existential issue of inequity into the daily discourse in Israel.

2. Build an AIPAC-type organization aimed at tracking the voting record of the Members of Knesset and then provide ongoing reporting of the results nationally. 

3. Organize a face-to-face campaign to register voters for political parties so they can vote in the primaries to gain significant sway on the outcome of future elections.

Here is my thought; come to Israel for 3 - 4 days.  Email me at, call my NYC number (646) 415-9414, tell me you’ll come and I will arrange for us to meet with major politicians, community leaders, rabbis, and lay people who are seeking to help effect change.   I believe we can cause change, and we must do this now.

I tell my kids all the time that this country is theirs.  I look forward to one day telling my grandchildren the same thing.  This is where Jews have yearned to be and live for 2000 years.  Finally we’re here.  I want to help make sure that stays true for all Jews.

Thanks for “listening,” I look forward to doing this with you.

In the meantime, here is the link to hear Arik Einstein sing this beautiful and moving song: