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© New Israel Fund 2010

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One would think that, having finally achieved a Jewish homeland in Israel, Jews could practice their religion - or not - untroubled by government interference.

To some extent, that's true, but much remains to be done. The ultra-Orthodox establishment that controls Israel's civil sphere continues to exclude other streams of Judaism on issues ranging from marriage to conversion. Many non-Orthodox Israelis develop a profound resentment of religious coercion, leading some to reject their Jewish identity in favor of a solely national affiliation. Moreover, religious extremism too often joins forces with extreme nationalism, to the detriment of democracy and to the pursuit of peace.

NIF believes that a tolerant Israel will be a more socially cohesive Israel within Israel itself, in its connection to Jews in the Diaspora, and in its relationships with non-Jewish citizens and neighbors. Work with us towards the ideal -- one nation on earth, with all members free to conduct their religious, spiritual and cultural lives according to their own conscience.

Key grantees: Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) for Progressive Judaism in Israel (Reform), a veteran NIF grantee, works to advance religious freedom and pluralism in Israel. Currently, IRAC is NIF's lead grantee working to fight forced gender segregation on buses and in other public spaces and is a leading force working to prevent the Rotem bill from passing.Noar Kahalacha raises public awareness and provides assistance to Mizrachi (Jews of Eastern descent) families whose children have been rejected by ultra-Orthodox schools. Recently, the organization made headlines in its struggle to end the forced segregation of Mizrachi girls in the Beit Yaakov School in the West Bank town of Immanuel. Havaya promotes secular Jewish identity with a focus on developing alternative ceremonies for secular Jewish weddings in Israel. Building on its success, Havaya is now also running training programs for additional lifecycle ceremonies including prenatal courses, prenuptial seminars, bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies and burial and mourning ceremonies.

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