Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger spoke out fiercely against the Reform
and Masorti Movements on Tuesday at an emergency conference of rabbis organized
Approximately 150 rabbis from around the country attended the
meeting, along with Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias, Religious
Services Minister Ya’acov Margi and several religious MKs.
during his address to the assembled clergy that while secular people in Israel
are “thirsty” for spiritual input, the non-Orthodox movements “are poisoning the
well of holiness and taking people to a nethermost pit.”
chief rabbi explained that the struggle he has undertaken against state
recognition of non-Orthodox rabbis is “to protect the Jewish people” from the
danger of an irreparable split that might be engendered by the “real halachic
dangers” of recognizing non-Orthodox movements in Israel.
frightening thing, God forbid it should happen, is if we will need to make
marriage records and the Jewish people is split into two, because we won’t be
able to marry among each other any more,” Amar said. “For this there is no
He issued a direct call to the prime minister and the legal system
“not to allow Judaism and Torah to be uprooted, which has protected us
throughout the generations and continues to do so today.”
members of the Reform and Masorti streams held a small demonstration outside the
headquarters of the Chief Rabbinate in protest of Amar and the rabbinical
gathering, describing it as “incitement and hateful.”
Rabbi Gilad Kariv,
director of the Reform Movement in Israel, said that the conference would only
strengthen the progress of his movement: “Any meeting of this kind reminds the
Israeli public of the radicalization and ‘haredification’ of the rabbinic
establishment, and of the need for Judaism in Israel to be welcoming and
“Rabbi Amar and his friends will continue on their journey of
incitement and we will continue to build communities and to establish centers of
education, convert immigrants from the Former Soviet Union and to work towards
social justice and tolerance,” Kariv vowed.
The conference was called by
Amar to protest last month’s decision by the attorney-general to recognize non-
Orthodox rabbis working in regional council jurisdictions and small communities
as “rabbis of non-Orthodox communities,” and fund their wages from state
Metzger was also in attendance despite reports that the leader
of the non-hassidic haredi world, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, had expressed
opposition to the initiative.
Speaking to the assembled rabbis, the
Ashkenazi chief rabbi was more measured in his criticism of the
attorney-general’s initiative, describing homiletically how rabbis “are not the
owners of the Torah, but are instead subject to it.”
He also cited the
results of the US National Jewish Population Survey that looked at different
streams of Judaism, and showed that the second, third and fourth generations of
Conservative and Reform Jews decline rapidly in numbers, whereas those of
Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews increase – dramatically so in the case of the
“Our call here is not against anyone personally, but a
principled call... to defend the future of the Jewish people,” Metzger
He also denied claims that the rabbinate and Orthodoxy in general
are not open and welcoming towards nonreligious people.
“We are also
sympathetic and friendly,” Metzger told the massed ranks of rabbis. “Who among
us does not want to do outreach [to secular Jews] and does not want to embrace
and love all Jews,” he asked.
Rabbi Benny Lau, an influential figure in
the national-religious world and head of the Ramban synagogue in south
Jerusalem, said following the conference that “cursing the Reform and
Conservative Movements would not save one Jew from
“Delegitimization and war doesn’t work,” he said. “The
best way to reach out to people not connected to Judaism is to do what is good
and what is right, to be professional, to serve the community, to provide the
best possible service.”
“Then the public will chose those who are good in
their eyes,” said Lau.
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