Navigate to News section

Israel’s Rabbis Head to the Bar

Trading the bimah for a barstool at student-organized discussion events

Harvey Stein
June 07, 2013

Last Wednesday in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Jaffa, 12 rabbis took to a different kind of pulpit: the barstool. Rabbis at the Bar, sponsored by university student groups in the three cities, gave the pub-going public a chance to listen to rabbis of all stripes—including men and women from the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform movements—as they spoke about issues they focus on in their community.

I went to Jaffa Café to hear Rabbi David Bloch and Rabbi Ron Yosef speak. Bloch is known for working to integrate ultra-Orthodox Israelis into institutions like the IDF, and Yosef, Israel’s first openly gay Orthodox rabbi, is the founder of HOD, an organization that supports gay Orthodox Jews.

The evening’s events were especially timely, as the divide between religious and secular Israelis seems ever-deepening. Attendees were enthusiastic about listening to a viewpoint that they don’t typically hear, though—especially in this type of venue. The event was free to the public; the beer, not so much. But by the looks of it, that didn’t hinder the attendance.

Harvey Stein is a video journalist and filmmaker living in Jerusalem. He is currently finishing his feature documentary, A Third Way—Settlers and Palestinians as Neighbors, which will be released this Fall. Follow him on Twitter at @jerusalemnyc.