Yisrael Beytenu MK David Rotem apologized on Sunday for disparaging comments he made about the Reform Movement and Jews belonging to the denomination last week.
It was reported last Tuesday that, during a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee which he chairs, Rotem denied the Reform Movement’s connection to Judaism.
He initially claimed that his comments were misinterpreted, but offered a full apology on Sunday.
“I spoke about Reform Judaism in a mistaken and erroneous fashion, as a result of which many people were offended,” Rotem said at Sunday’s committee hearing, which was held to discuss a bill on conversion by Hatnua MK Elazar Stern.
“I did not intend to offend the Reform Movement or anyone else. I retract [my comments] and express my apologies to anyone who was offended.”
Following his comments, the director of the Reform Movement in Israel, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, thanked Rotem for his apology.
“The only way to conduct the significant arguments between Jewish denominations and the different sectors of Israeli society is through mutual respect and by seeking the common ground,” Kariv said.
He said that the state should strengthen its ties to all segments of the Jewish people and the Reform Movement hopes such a stance would become “the consistent approach of all government authorities and would also be expressed in hearings conducted by MK Rotem himself on the issue of conversion.”
Not everyone was happy that Rotem apologized. Following his statement, United Torah Judaism MK Uri Maklev said that he should not have had to apologize and accused the Reform Movement of bribing politicians.
“MK Rotem was forced to apologize to the Reform,” said Maklev. “An MK should never be forced to apologize. It is an injury to democracy and the law of immunity for members of Knesset. The Reform Movement is persecuting the Jewish people and breaking it apart. They are the enemies of the Jewish people and cause assimilation. They bribe politicians,” said the haredi MK.
The Reform Movement responded by saying that it appeared Maklev had not read the biblical verse “The ways of Torah are ways of pleasantness.”
“The fact that Maklev does not hesitate to brazenly lie and speak slander with a ridiculous and delusional claim that the Reform [Movement] bribes members of Knesset testifies to just how far removed he and his colleagues have become from the values of ethics and integrity of Jewish tradition,” the movement said in a statement to the press.
“It is a disgrace to the Knesset that words of falsehood, hatred, and incitement are heard in its walls, and in the name of Torah no less.”
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.