Skip Navigation
October 25, 2014 | 1st Cheshvan 5775
Netanyahu's Action Disturbs Diaspora Jews

NETANYAHU'S ACTION DISTURBS DIASPORA JEWS
RABBI ERIC YOFFIE CALLS DECISION AN AFFRONT TO DIASPORA JEWRY


The full text of Rabbi Yoffie's statement follows

JUNE 4, 1998-Reacting to the Prime Minister's decision to resubmit the conversion bill to the Knesset, Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie today said Netanyahu "demonstrates a shocking insensitivity to the religious concerns of the majority of world Jewry." Yoffie is the President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, which includes 875 synagogues in North America.

"Mr. Netanyahu has apparently forgotten the uproar caused by the passage of the bill on the first reading last year," Rabbi Yoffie said. "At this moment of concern over the peace process, and of tension between the governments of Israel and the United States, it is incomprehensible that Israel's leadership has initiated legislative action which is certain to cause anger and deep distress among Diaspora Jewry."

Ironically, a Reform pilgrimage led by Rabbi Yoffie is leaving for Israel on Sunday. The mission, which plans to meet with Netanyahu and other government leaders, is designed to show the Movement's determination to win the battle for religious pluralism in Israel.

While the exact language of the bill is not yet known, it is clear that Netanyahu has bowed to the pressure of the Ultra-Orthodox to give authority to rule on the validity of conversions in Israel to the

Chief Rabbinate. While it had been hoped that the Ne'eman Committee would be able to find a means to recognize Reform and Conservative conversions in Israel, the Chief Rabbinate's rejection of the committee's recommendations led to the current crisis.

"We are confident that the citizens of Israel do not support this action," said Yoffie. "We believe it is a shame and a disgrace that the Government of Israel has chosen to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Jewish State by doing what is certain to tear apart the Jewish people."


STATEMENT BY RABBI ERIC H. YOFFIE
President, Union of American Hebrew Congregations

I am shocked and dismayed at the decision of the Israeli government to resubmit the conversion bill to the Knesset for a second and third reading.

Mr. Netanyahu has apparently forgotten the uproar caused by the passage of the bill on the first reading last year. At this moment of concern over the peace process, and of tension between the Governments of Israel and the United States, it is incomprehensible that Israel's leadership has initiated legislative action which is certain to cause anger and deep distress among Diaspora Jewry.

The proposed legislation, by granting exclusive authority over conversion to Israel's Chief Rabbinate, denies the legitimacy of Reform and Conservative rabbis and Reform and Conservative Judaism. It is a profound affront to the 90 percent of North American Jews who identify with these movements. It demonstrates a shocking insensitivity to the religious concerns of the majority of world Jewry. It suggests that in the eyes of the Israeli government the Jewish State belongs only to some Jews, rather than being the precious possession of the entire Jewish people.

The reason for the crisis is the rejection by the Chief Rabbinate of the original recommendations of the Ne'eman Commission. As a result, the Reform and Conservative movements returned to court to seek official recognition of their conversions. The likelihood of success in these appeals has led to empty threats by the ultra-Orthodox parties to resign from the Government if the conversion bill is not quickly passed. The Prime Minister has apparently bowed to these pressures.

The proposed legislation, the exact wording of which is as yet unknown, may suggest that the law is intended to implement the Ne'eman Committee recommendations. However, having been rejected by the Chief Rabbinate, these recommendations do not exist. The Reform Movement will accept no legislation that stipulates that only Orthodox authorities may perform conversions in Israel.

This latest action adds special urgency to the Reform Movement's mission to Israel. In three days we will leave for Israel to meet with the Prime Minister and other Government leaders, and urge them to reverse their position. We are confident that the citizens of Israel do not support this action. We believe it is a shame and a disgrace that the Government of Israel has chosen to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Jewish State by doing what is certain to tear apart the Jewish people.

 
Multimedia Icon Multimedia:  Photos  |  Videos  |  Podcasts  |  Webinars
Bookmark and Share About Us  |  Careers  |  Privacy Policy
Copyright Union for Reform Judaism 2011.  All Rights Reserved