Israel Hofsheet Havaya Project

Widely recognized as the leading grassroots organization on the issue of Jewish pluralism in Israel with in person programs for thousands, and engaging as many as one million Israelis through its media campaigns and Facebook page with more than 72,000 followers from the general Israeli public.

Location: Tel Aviv
Year founded: 2009


Israel Hofshit is the only national Israeli grassroots movement whose mission is promoting freedom of religion and Jewish pluralism in Israel. Israel Hofshit impacts public perception and participation by mobilizing all those who seek to keep Israeli society diverse, equal and free. Specifically, we believe that all forms of belief and practice among Jewish people are legitimate and should be accepted and supported by the state of Israel. Israel Hofsheet is particularly passionate about the issue of freedom of choice in marriage. There is currently no civil marriage option and all Jewish weddings are controlled by the Rabbinate. It is estimated that as many as 20% of all Israeli marriages every year are conducted abroad because either they have no legal way to marry in Israel (true for at least 300,000 Israelis who don't qualify as Jewish halachicly but were Jewsish enough to make aliya) plus those whose personal and Jewish beliefs are not in line with those of the Rabbinate. Sadly, many of these Israeli couples are married in Cyprus by a judge with a large Christian cross hanging in the room instead of having a Jewish wedding. In response to the extreme lack of Jewish pluralism in Israel and even lack of exposure to modern Jewish practices and ideas, an aversion for all thing Jewish had previously developed among the 45% of Israelis who identify as strictly secular.    

The program for which we are seeking funding at this time is the Havaya one-day workshop which teaches Israeli engaged couples who cannot or choose not to be married by the Israeli Rabbinate the basic principals of the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony. The goals of this program are to encourage young secular Israeli Jews to have a Jewish wedding ceremony and empower them to design and conduct their wedding ceremony according to their values and worldviews. Experience has shown that progressive Jewish weddings are having a tremendous positive impact on expanding many secular Israelis understanding that there are many ways to be Jewish and that there is an enormous of amount of positive that can be gained from Jewish life and education when it is presented to them in a way that does not contradict their values or lifestyle. The program ultimate reaches not just the couple themselves, but the several hundreds of guests who will attend their wedding and exponentially expand the impact of this small program. Havaya is especially unique as it is the only place in Israel that couples who are not both Jewish can have a Jewish wedding. 

Last year this new project assisted 116 couples who went on to have a legally unrecognized but Jewish weddings in Israel. Our objective for this year is to reach 350 couples (700 individuals) in the upcoming cycle of seminars, throughout the period of September 2015 – August 2016. In order to reach more potential participants, we are currently seeking to enlarge our yearly budget.

Beyond helping reconnect thousands of secular Jewish Israelis with Judaism, this program strives to create facts on the ground for social change. The reality of more and more thousands of Israelis choosing to hold alternative Jewish weddings in Israel will create a type of positive inertia pressure on the Israeli government to offer Israelis freedom of choice in marriage..  


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