Toldot - weekly Torah portion
I was born in Israel. I studied electronics engineering at the Technion and served as an officer in the Israel air force. My wife comes from a family that immigrated to Israel from Iraq. She is a biochemist and works for Teva. We have six children and three grandchildren. Most of my professional career has been in the Israeli hi-tech industry. You can find me as a co-inventor in over two dozen registered patents, ranging the fields of semiconductors to medical equipment. And if someone really looks hard, they’ll find that my name, together with that of my good friend Yuval Shachar, strongly connected to the wordmark iPhone. But we’re not here today to talk about that.
At the High Holy Days this year, I began my fiftieth year of voluntary involvement in the Reform movement. It all began when I served as a lay cantor at the age of 13 in the Natan-Ya Congregation, which had only just been established in Netanya, my home town. My parents were among its founders. My father supported Herut and my mother the Labor Party – they enjoyed 63 years of married life, accompanied by lively political debates, and sharing a great love. I served as secretary of the young community when I was just 16, under the old Ottoman associations law. I saw, experienced, and took part in the daily struggle for something that should be taken for granted in a country that respects equal rights: the right to pray in my own way, in a place that is funded like the other two hundred something Orthodox synagogues in the city. I am proud that I saw voluntary leaders engaging tirelessly in this struggle and coping time after time with considerable financial difficulties, due to their profound conviction that this was the right thing to do. It is regrettable that in my city, this struggle was only resolved after the court intervened.
Today, as chairperson of the Board of the Israeli Reform Movement, I have a unique opportunity to see the broader picture. One side of the picture is disappointing, as we see that for the sake of short-term political expediency there are those who are willing to trample on the basic rights of my friends in the movement. I can somehow understand the fear of those who do the trampling, but I find it harder to understand the failure of others to speak out and take action. But the other side of the picture – one that is several times more important and regarding – is the fact that I am sitting today next to a group of Members of Knesset, volunteers, leaders and professionals who all say – enough is enough! Based on study, including study of this week’s Torah portion Toldot, they announce clearly and firmly that we will continue to dig wells. We will not allow others to usurp our portion. It is time for equality. We do not wish to be given more than others, but neither will we accept anything less than full equality. Our Reform and Conservative movements are Israeli and bring together Israelis who know this land through their feet, through the soil, through joint military service, and just by being and living here. It is no longer possible to ignore the non-Orthodox movements, and every time we are ignored we will continue to act, to train rabbis, to build communities, and to bring together women and men committed to the values of pluralism and equality. In a loud and clear voice, we declare: It is time for equality – and this time, for everyone.
Reuven Marko, 7 November 2018, 29 Marcheshvan 5779