TZOHAR, an Israeli organisation bringing Jewish Israelis closer to their heritage, has set up an Ambassadors’ Group and a Friends Group in Australia to raise its profile.
Australian-born Adam Segal, now living in Israel, was in Melbourne during the high holy days to establish the local support groups.
The former Caulfield Shule cantor made aliyah last year and is now Tzohar’s international resource development manager.
Tzohar sees its role in Israel as “engaging the secular population with halachic Judaism” through grassroots services, by helping shape public policy and by providing rabbinic leadership.
Its Shorashim (roots) project helps immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are born Jewish but are unable to prove their Jewish roots, and so are legally prohibited from marrying as Jews in Israel.
“Consequently, they pursue civil marriage abroad, practically terminating their own Jewish status and that of their future children,” Segal explained.
Shorashim helps immigrants authenticate their Jewish status and legally marry in Israel, obtaining documents, photos and testimonies from international archives and databases.
Meanwhile, Tzohar’s Jewish Marriage Project helps couples who decline a religious marriage because of red tape surrounding marriage licences from the Chief Rabbinate.
“Sadly, over one third of Israel’s secular couples resent this coercive, bureaucratic encounter and opt for civil alternatives in places like Cyprus or Prague.
Aside from the loss of Jewish tradition, the children of these couples will find it virtually impossible to prove their Jewish roots later in life,” said Segal.
He noted that thousands of Tzohar volunteer rabbis and female volunteers accompany more than 8000 secular brides and grooms each year through their wedding procedure for “an embracing, inclusive and inspiring Jewish marriage experience”.
Tzohar brings secular Israelis into a traditional Jewish lifestyle from circumcision, to bar and bat mitzvah, to weddings and end-of-life. “During Israel’s 70th anniversary year, 2018, we want to prove the credentials of least 14,000 Jews,” said Segal.
“With every person we prove, on average there’s another five that [are proven] Jewish. We want to give the Jewish State a gift of 70,000 confirmed Jewish people.”