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Israeli Jews at odds with liberal US Jews

[ Without the Torah and the Jewish religion, what does being a Jew even mean? Ultra Orthodox Jews hold to the 13 principles of Maimonides and maintain that a Jew who does not agree to these is a heretic.  Liberal Jews have the problem of proving their Jewish identity apart from any appeal to the Torah and Jewish tradition. ]

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Israeli Jews at odds with liberal Judaism in U.S.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Many American Jews — whose faith is seen by the ultra-Orthodox as blurred by intermarriage and fading adherence to tradition — are feeling rejected and unwelcome in Israel.

When Hillary Rubin immigrated from the U.S. to Israel, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and descendant of a famed Zionist visionary felt that she had finally arrived in her true home.

But now that religious authorities are questioning the 29-year-old Michigan native’s Jewish pedigree and refusing to recognize her marriage, she’s having second thoughts.

Rubin is at the center of a deepening rift between the world’s two biggest Jewish communities — the American and Israeli. Religious life in Israel is dominated by the strict ultra-Orthodox establishment, which has growing political power and has become increasingly resistant to any inroads by the more liberal movements that predominate among American Jews.

“I feel like I am caught in the middle of these two worlds,” said Rubin, who was raised in a liberal Jewish home in a Detroit suburb. “On the one hand I’m far too traditional for American society. On the flip side, I am not religious enough for the rabbinate in Israel.”

It’s a far cry from the days when American Jews looked to Israel as a source of pride and inspiration and Israel could rely on America’s Jews as a source of unconditional moral support and fundraising. With ultra-Orthodox Jews the fastest growing sector in Israel, often holding the balance of power in coalition governments, open strains between the communities are now far more common.

Over the summer, a proposed law that would have consecrated the Orthodox monopoly over conversion in Israel caused an uproar among Diaspora Jews. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to shelve the bill in hopes of finding a compromise.

Last week, American and Israeli Jewish leaders held a conference in Jerusalem aiming at ironing out their differences. But the closed-door sessions were tense and all sides stuck to their positions, said one participant, American Rabbi Jerome Epstein, of the Conservative movement.

He warned that the conflict could “tear the people apart” if no compromise is found.

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