(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
We must remember there are 70 faces to the Torah, Senior Citizens Minister Gila Gamliel said ahead of sending off a plane full of immigrants to Israel on Monday.
Gamliel plans to take part in a ceremony in which 3,000 people making aliya through Nefesh B’Nefesh leave the US for their new life in Israel.
“I want to welcome them home,” Gamliel told The Jerusalem Post on Friday, before she headed to New York. “The Jewish people are coming back to the Land of Israel and to Zionism to start a new life in the land of milk and honey.”
As to whether immigrants who are not Orthodox should feel less welcome in Israel, in light of comments by Religious Services Minister David Azoulay that he does not consider Reform Jews Jewish, which he then retracted, saying they’re Jewish but sinning, Gamliel, who is observant, said the minister’s comments were “miserable.”
“We need to show a welcoming face and have a better environment [for all Jews],” Gamliel said.
“We are all brothers and Jews. We have to remember that. There are 70 faces to the Torah,” she said, quoting a Jewish proverb, “which means everyone experiences Judaism how they think they should and everyone has to be given a platform.”
Gamliel pointed out that conversion and issues of religion and state in general are very sensitive in Israel, and all aspects must be taken into consideration. She called for changes to the government’s conversion policy, which briefly allowed municipal rabbis to conduct conversions but now only allows it under specific approval from the chief rabbinate, a compromise, and said it should be given a chance.
The minister said her fatherin- law runs four conversion classes through the moderate Orthodox rabbinical association Tzohar, and recounted that three converts held their weddings in her home, calling the experience “lovely and very exciting.”
Gamliel will also participate in the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany’s annual board meeting while in New York, in her capacity as senior citizens minister.
The New York-based conference is the primary Jewish communal interlocutor with Germany for Holocaust reparation issues, disbursing hundreds of millions of dollars to survivors worldwide every year.
The minister refused to comment on revelations in The Jerusalem Post that the defrauding of the Claims Conference by insiders in the organization likely reached much more than the previously reported $57 million in German taxpayer funds meant for Holocaust survivors.
“Every organization has to be run properly and the topic should be investigated... Conclusions have to be drawn, and that’s what the board is for,” Gamliel said, adding that the meeting she is attending is not dealing with the issue.
Gamliel, whose mother is a Holocaust survivor from Libya, plans to bring up reparations for survivors from North Africa.
She explained that presently, Moroccans are the only North African survivors recognized by the Claims Conference.
“For the first time, the chairman of the World Organization of Libyan Jews is part of the Israeli mission to the Claims Conference board meeting. It’s important that their demands be expressed, too,” she said.
Gamliel also called for negotiations to be held to return property to Holocaust survivors.
“We can help survivors uphold their dignity and quality of life in the years we have left and not have them be in distress,” she stated.