(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth, who until Tuesday was the director of the liberal-leaning, national-religious rabbinical association Beit Hillel, said on Wednesday that he would vote for Likud instead of Bayit Yehudi, creating a storm in the national-religious sector.
Writing on his Facebook page, Neuwirth said that he would not be voting for Bayit Yehudi, because the party had blocked reforms that would have moderated the interaction of religion and Jewish life with the state, a stance that he said is out of keeping with the party's electorate.
A party that pretends to represent a different type of Judaism, a Judaism that builds bridges, must first and foremost have a vision for the place of Judaism in Israeli public life and a vision for religion and state, society and law, wrote Neuwirth.
The rabbi wrote that the party had "significantly faltered" on issues such as Jewish conversion, personal status, Shabbat in the public domain, the status of the Chief Rabbinate and the rabbinical courts and the status quo on religion and state issues inherited from the time of the establishment of the state.
"Instead of leading in a responsible and balanced way a path that reflected the majority opinion of its electoral base, Bayit Yehudi was the one which thrust a stick into the spokes," continued Neuwirth.
"The opportunity [to elect a national-religious chief rabbi] during the elections to the Chief Rabbinate was missed and Rabbi [David] Stav was not elected because of the opposition of Bayit Yehudi to an amendment that would have brought balance to the electoral body [which elects the chief rabbis]," he said.
"Bayit Yehudi also opposed the law for conversion [reform], a law that would have... eased the bureaucracy and reduced the danger of mixed marriages in the State of Israel. On many other issues of religion and state, whether connected to the rabbinical courts, prenuptial agreements [to prevent the phenomenon of chained women], solutions to the place of Shabbat in the public domain, and others, the line taken by Bayit Yehudi does not reflect the majority of the party's voters, who come from the moderate stream of the national-religious sector and the traditional and secular communities," wrote the rabbi.
"However, Bayit Yehudi prefers to brush these issues under the carpet and not to take a clear position, because of different opinions in the national-religious sector and the concern not to loose votes," he said, ending by saying he preferred to vote Likud instead to ensure that the political right remain in control of the country.
National-religious MKs Rabbi Shai Piron, Aliza Lavie and Elazar Stern from the Yesh Atid party criticized Neuwirth?s decision to publicly back Likud, saying that the ruling party had entrusted Judaism to the hands of haredi politicos for decades.
In particular, they pointed to Beit Hillel's record of promoting female Jewish leadership and said that this made Neuwirth's public backing of Likud even more surprising.
"Therefore your decision to choose a party [Likud] that thwarted (together with Bayit Yehudi) our initiatives to integrate women into the Committee for Appointing Rabbinical Judges and the electoral body for chief rabbis was greatly surprising to us," the three MKs said.