Arye Deri at the President's residence 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Shas leader and Interior Minister Arye Deri has lambasted liberal elements in the religious-Zionist community, describing them as “borderline Reform” Jews, singling out the Tzohar rabbinical association.
Deri was speaking at a closed conference of the B’Noam rabbinical association, which has strong backing and support from the Chief Rabbinate, and which is essentially an attempt by the religious establishment to make itself more welcoming for nonreligious Jews and to counter the strong influence Tzohar has among the religiously traditional and secular public.
First reported by Channel 2, Deri said that Israeli Jews wearing knitted yarmulkes, meaning religious Zionists, “particularly from the central region, are borderline Reform [Jews].”
Tzohar chairman Rabbi David Stav serves as the municipal chief rabbi of the city of Shoham in the Central District.
The Shas leader alleged that such religious-Zionist rabbis were making “big changes to prayer services,” saying that even though they look more Israeli and different from Reform Jews abroad, they are nevertheless very close to Reform Judaism.
Deri also noted that the Tzohar organization fought strongly against the controversial conversion legislation advanced by Shas and United Torah Judaism which brought about a crisis with Diaspora Jewry since it would give the Chief Rabbinate a total monopoly over conversion in Israel.
“The biggest fighters who were against this law were the Tzohar rabbis, in cooperation with the Reform [movement],” said the minister.
In an off-the-record response, a Tzohar source told Channel 2 that “a convicted criminal also being investigated right now is the last person to preach to a big group of rabbis which is trying to clean up the filth from Deri and his friends.”