In a First, Louisville Brings Kariv and Hess Together to Discuss Pluralism in Israel

Israel has a special place in the hearts and souls of the Jewish people. It is our homeland, our place of refuge from persecution and anti-Semitism, a place to strengthen our Jewish identities.

Yet for those Jews who are not part of Israel’s powerful and officially-sanctioned ultra-Orthodox leadership, religious freedom does not exist in Israel. The determination of who is a Jew for the purposes of marriage, conversion and burial lies in the hands of a group that imposes its strict, narrow interpretation on the entire country, making it nearly impossible for other groups to practice Judaism as they understand it.

Members of the community are invited to attend a discussion addressing the inequalities of religious freedom in Israel on Sunday, November 20, at 7 p.m. at The Temple. The evening’s guest speakers are Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the president and CEO of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism; Yizhar Hess the executive director of the Masorti Movement in Israel; and David Mallach, the executive vice chair of United israel Appeal.

It is unprecedented to have Rabbi Kariv and Yizhar Hess participate in a program together and Jewish Community Relations Council Director Matt Goldberg says it is a real coup for Louisville.

This program is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Louisville, Adath Jeshurun, Keneseth Israel, The Temple and Temple Shalom.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv

Rabbi Gilad Kariv

For the past 17 years, Rabbi Kariv has been an active and committed member in the IMPJ. Rabbi Kariv previously served as the Associate Director of the Israel Religious Action Center.

He served in the Israeli Defense Forces’ special Talpiot project of the Intelligence Corps. He graduated from the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University, earning a combined degree with a B.A. in law and Jewish philosophy. Rabbi Kariv obtained his LLM in public and international law from the Northwestern University School of Law.

While at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rabbi Kariv joined the national staff of the IMPJ, founded the Young Adult Leadership Forum and served on the Board of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). He studied in the Israel Rabbinical Program of the Hebrew Union College and was ordained as a Reform Rabbi in 2003.

Rabbi Kariv first joined the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the legal and public policy arm of the IMPJ, as the director of the Public Policy and Social Action Department and later became IRAC’s associate director.

He was an active member in Israel’s Constitution Committee. He has also served as a Board member of the Joint Institute for Jewish Studies, established by the Jewish Agency, following the recommendations of the Ne’eman Commission on conversion.

In addition, he served as a Board member of Hemdat: The Israel Association for the Promotion of Freedom of Science, Religion and Culture. Rabbi Kariv currently sits on the board of Panim: For Jewish Renaissance, an advocacy organization working to promote pluralistic Judaism in Israel.

In 2012 and 2015, Rabbi Kariv ran for office in the primary elections under the Labor Party.

Rabbi Kariv has written numerous articles and position papers on Judaism, religion and state, and community empowerment. His articles appear in leading Israeli newspapers and his opinions are frequently quoted in articles on legal issues, public policy, and social action.

Recently Rabbi Kariv lead the negotiations on the Kotel issue together with leaders of the Conservative Movement, Reform Movement, JAFI (the Jewish Agency for Israel), and JFNA (Jewish Federations of North America), which resulted in a historic decision to create a pluralistic section of the Wall.

Yizhar Hess

Yizhar Hess

Yizhar Hess is a 10th generation Jerusalemite. Following his military service, he earned a B.A. in political science and Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. A member of the Israeli Bar, his law degree is from the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. He holds an M.A. in Jewish studies from the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem and is working towards a Ph.D. at Sussex University, Brighton, England.

Hess has been the deputy director at the Shorashim Centre for Jewish Studies and he served as the Jewish Agency’s community shaliach to Tucson. On his return to Israel, he worked for the Jewish Agency as Director of Partnerships.

He has professional experience in advertising and journalism. He is a regular contributor to the Israeli press on the subjects of religion and state and is the co-editor of the book, Questions About God, published by Ma’ariv in 1998.

He is known as one of the leading voices in Israel promoting Jewish Pluralism and represents the Masorti-Conservative Movement in the negotiations with the Israeli government regarding egalitarian prayer at the Kotel.

David M. Mallach is a long-time leader at Jewish Federations. He has held positions with UJA-Federation of New York, Jewish Federations of North America and United Jewish Communities of MetroWest in addition to his post with UIA.

UIA acts as the bridge between the American federation system and the Jewish Agency for Israel in the transmission of funds, representation of the US Jewish community in JAFI governance, sharing the agendas of concern to American Jewry with the Jewish Agency and helping American Jewry better understand the value and impact of JAFI on Jewish life around the world.

For 12 years, Mallach was the managing director of the Commission on Jewish People at UJA-Federation of New York. The COJP works to build bridges among different Jewish communities in NY, Israel and around the world. It also seeks to strengthen the ties of Jewish communities with the surrounding environment in which they reside.

It has five key areas of activity: strengthening civil society in Israel, inclusion of all segments of Israeli society as active partners in Israeli life, strengthening Jewish communities in Europe, building a strong and interconnected Jewish community in NY from interfaith families to Haredim, everyone in the spectrum of Jewish life, and enhancing the mutual bonds of NY Jewry and Israel.

For more information, contact Mary Jean Timmel, 502-238-2722 or

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