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Beyond that, the issue also brought real pain to American Jews who wanted to live in Israel and to be accepted by it as they are.

For the first thirty years of Jewish statehood, there were few problems of defining who is a Jew.

They either involved groups of Jewish olim such as the Bene Israel of India who did not fall fully within halakhic Judaism, as understood in Europe, or individuals such as De Shalit (who wanted his children registered as Jews although his wife was non-Jewish) and Brother Daniel (a Jewish convert to Catholicism) who sought to gain status as Jews, even though they violated certain basic Jewish norms accepted by virtually all Jews in Israel, not only those required halakhicly.

It stands there and delivers its religious message whether worshippers enter or not, and while there can be discussions about what are the contents of that message, the character of the edifice is unmistakable.

For American non-Orthodox Jews, who are the vast majority in the United States (the number of American Jews who identify with Orthodoxy at a maximum is 10 percent, whereas something like 75 percent identify with the various non-Orthodox movements) see Judaism from an American religious perspective that has been shaped by the experience Protestant as a matter of personal spirituality and belief first and foremost, which means that Jews must begin by personally accepting the fundamental beliefs and traditions of Judaism in some way but then are free to apply them operationally in ways that they find meaningful and satisfying.

Non-Orthodox converts to Judaism generally were converted before coming to Israel or in a few cases were sent abroad to complete formal conversion after studying in Israel, but the numbers were so small that the issue was a minimal one.

Most important, aliya from the West continued to be very small, even if more vocal than in the past.

Indeed, the only Reform Jews were a few refugees from 1930's Germany who had brought German Reform with them and had two congregations, one in Jerusalem and one in Haifa.

There were no Conservative congregations since the Jeshurun Synagogue, which had been established in the 1920s with half an eye to becoming a Conservative congregation at a time when the distance between Conservative and Orthodox Judaism was minimal, had long since been absorbed into standard Israeli modern Orthodoxy.

In the interim, American Conservative Judaism had moved further away from traditional halakhic interpretation to develop more radical interpretations which they still claimed to be within halakhah, including empowering women for all or virtually all roles in Jewish life and allowing practices that Orthodoxy had ruled were not halakhically permitted on Sabbaths and holidays.

It was this newly aggressive Reform and Conservative Judaism which confronted an equally new fervently Orthodox militant stance.

When Israel was founded fifty years ago, it inherited the Orthodox rabbinical establishment that had in part existed in the land since the Ottoman conquest and in part had been reorganized under the British Mandate.

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