(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
NEW YORK - The American Jewish Committee demanded on Friday that Tourism Minister Yariv Levin apologize to Reform Jews for declaring that “Reform Jews in the US are a dying world” last week.
The AJC stated that it “fully shares the outrage of the Reform movement” concerning the “disparaging remarks” of Levin, who opposes the construction of a new section at the Western Wall for pluralistic prayer.
“His words are both offensive and off-base," AJC Chief Executive Officer David Harris said on Friday. "He owes a heartfelt apology to millions of Jews, who care deeply about the Jewish future and the Jewish state's future."
“A robust, engaged American and global Jewish community requires the individual freedom to express what it means to be a Jew," Harris added. "Comments dismissive of Jews affirming their deeply-held connection to our heritage can only risk driving people away from the collective Jewish world and that would be nothing short of tragic."
The AJC welcomed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s condemnation of Levin’s statement, although the minister has refused to retract it.
Leaders of Reform Judaism have fired back at Levin last week. In a letter to Reform congregations in the US, chairman of the Reform movement in Israel, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, called for the Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federations of North America not to undertake any cooperation with Levin until he retracts his words.
“As long as he thinks Diaspora Jewry has no right to voice an opinion on subjects such as the Western Wall, we will not give him a platform in the Jewish communities and organizations in the United States,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the movement’s congregational arm in North America, said. “Levin will not teach us what it means to support the State of Israel.”
Following the announcement, a meeting arranged by the Foreign Ministry for early next month between Levin and representatives of Reform groups from the United States was canceled.