Minister Bennett addresses Pittsburgh Jewish community leaders at a memorial vigil on Sunday, October 28, 2018..
(photo credit: ALEXI ROSENFELD)
Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett will meet with top US Jewish leaders in New York on Tuesday to hear their views on what the Israeli government can do to protect American Jews and fight antisemitism.
Bennett spoke to The Jerusalem Post from Pittsburgh, the site of the murder of 11 worshipers during Saturday morning services at the Tree of Life synagogue. He indicated that he did not believe Israel would end up posting guards at synagogues.
“I am coming to listen to them and tell them we are at their service in any way possible,” Bennett said. “But America is a sovereign country and Israel is not the provider of security abroad. The responsibility ultimately lies with local authorities.”
Bennett attended a vigil for the victims Sunday night and met on Monday with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto. He brought along a delegation of social workers to help survivors with trauma and a team from volunteer recovery organization ZAKA to assist with the burials.
He dismissed speculations that the Israeli government would be unwanted at a Conservative synagogue due to policies that have not advanced religious pluralism.
“There has been nothing but gratitude and an understanding that Israel and US Jews stand together side by side,” Bennett said. “There was no divisiveness. Jews were murdered because they are Jewish, and the murderer didn’t ask if they were Orthodox or Conservative. Every Jew is a Jew.”
Reacting to accusations in the US that President Donald Trump encouraged the atmosphere that led to the attack, he said “Antisemitism has existed as long as there has been Jews, and it has nothing to do with domestic politics in the US.”
Reacting to Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay’s call for American Jews to move to Israel due to the attack, Bennett said: “I wish all would move to Israel, because it is their home, but I’m not going after an attack to say, ‘They killed you, move to Israel.’ We have attacks in Israel, too.”
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid both attacked the government’s policies on religious pluralism during their weekly faction meetings Monday.
“We know how to unite against enemies but the time has come for us to learn how to embrace American Jews when there is no crisis and that means recognizing the different streams of Judaism,” Livni said.
Lapid said the murders were a reminder to anyone who says that Reform and Conservative Jews are not real Jews – they were murdered in synagogue, on Shabbat morning, opposite the Holy Ark, wrapped in their prayer shawls.
“The State of Israel stands in solidarity and mourning with them but that’s not enough,” Lapid said. “They weren’t only Jews like us in death, but also in life. Not only in death should the government honor them, but also in life. Not only in death should the government treat them as equals, but also in life.”
He said the government must implement the Western Wall framework, in which Jews of different religious denominations have equal access to pray at the site; to recognize marriages and conversions from all streams of Judaism and pass Yesh Atid’s civil union bill.
“These past four years a painful split has developed between the State of Israel and Jews across the world, especially in the United States,” Lapid said. The government chose narrow political interests over the good of the Jewish people – over our commitment to the Jewish people. That has to stop.”
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