Trip to Bay Area for Israeli religious freedom rabbi will include a special father-son moment

Rabbi Uri Regev, the chief executive of Hiddush, an organization that promotes religious pluralism and freedom in Israel, will speak at seven synagogues in nine days during a trip to the Bay Area that starts this weekend.

Rabbi Uri Regev

But the highlight of his whirlwind tour will be his stop at Temple Sinai in Oakland, where his son, Rabbi Yoni Regev, will be installed as assistant rabbi.

“I am very proud of our son Yonatan and very grateful to the Sinai congregation for expressing their appreciation to his skills as a rabbi and as a mensch and deciding to appoint him assistant rabbi,” Regev said.

The elder Regev will speak about prophetic voices in Judaism and the imperatives of social justice at the Nov. 20 Friday night Shabbat service, Yoni Regev said. During the service, the younger Regev will receive the Torah from the congregation’s president and be charged with carrying it and its teachings into the community.

“It’s going to be the highlight of my visit,” the elder Regev said. “This is the best mix of pleasure and business I can think of.”

Rabbi Yoni Regev

Temple Sinai hired Yoni Regev as interim assistant rabbi more than a year ago, and he will now be installed as a permanent member of the clergy. His wife, Rabbi Lara Regev, will be installed as director of Jewish Living and Learning at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael next month, and the couple is expecting their first child in the spring.

A day after the installation, on Nov. 21, the younger Regev will moderate a conversation between his father and Rabbi Stanley Davids, titled “The future of our Jewish homeland,” followed by an installation luncheon (for more information, visit www. oaklandsinai.org).

Uri Regev is a prominent member of Israel’s Reform movement and a strong advocate for pluralism in public life. He previously served as president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and as executive director and legal counsel for the Israel Religious Action Center. He is using this trip to garner support from American Jews and clergy for religious pluralism and civil marriage in Israel.

Because Orthodox authorities control religious life in Israel, only religious unions are permitted within the country. Israelis of different religions cannot marry each other now within Israel. Even people who consider themselves Jewish but don’t meet the rabbinate’s strict definition, such as adoptees or people whose mothers are not Jewish, may not be able to marry in Israel. More than 100 Northern California rabbis, as well as rabbis and rabbinical associations across the country, have signed on to Hiddush’s right-to-marry campaign.

“Israelis appreciate and want American Jewish involvement” on this issue, Regev stressed.

Rabbi Uri Regev (left) blesses son Yoni at his Hebrew Union College ordination in Beverly Hills in 2014.

More than 80 percent of Israelis support measures to increase religious freedom in public life, including instituting civil marriage and limiting state support for Orthodox yeshiva students who don’t serve in the military, according to a recent survey by Hiddush.

“Israelis are sick and tired of the politicization, the horse-trading that characterizes the handling of matters of religion and state,” Regev said. “Israelis are anxious about realizing our own founding promises of full social and political equality.”

In the Bay Area Nov. 13-21, Regev will talk at Congregation Kol Shofar (Tiburon), Kehilla Community Synagogue (Piedmont), Netivot Shalom (Berkeley), Beth Chaim (Danville), B’nai Tikvah (Walnut Creek) and Sinai (Oakland). He will visit Temple Israel of Alameda as a scholar-in-residence, giving talks on Nov. 13 and Nov. 15 on religious pluralism in Israel and why American Jews should be concerned.

“I think what he’s doing is speaking the truth that needs to be spoken, so we can be in true solidarity with Israel, which we definitely need to be,” said Rabbi Barnett Bricker of Temple Israel, who has been friends with the elder Regev for decades. “I think it’s very timely that he’s going to speak to us now because I am concerned about the direction the American Jewish community’s relationship with Israel is going.”

Rabbi Uri Regev will give 10 talks at Bay Area synagogues Nov. 13-21. For schedule, visit www.jweekly.com/article/full/76044.

Drew Himmelstein
Drew Himmelstein

Drew Himmelstein is a J. parenting columnist and former staff writer. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two sons.