PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN and Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the head of the Union for Reform Judaism, attend a meeting of American Jewish religious leaders in New York, in 2015..
(photo credit: COURTESY OF THE UNION FOR REFORM JUDAISM)
Arye Deri’s comments that the haredi conversion bill is meant to prevent mass abuse of conversion to obtain citizenship are nonsense, Reform Movement leaders said.
“Deri is a liar, who once again has proved that truth isn’t an important value in his eyes,” Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the Reform Movement in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post.
During a meeting of the Shas Knesset faction on Monday, Deri insinuated that the Reform and Conservative movements would convert massive numbers of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants who would then gain Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return if legislation on conversion was not passed.
The minister specifically attacked Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the Reform Movement in the US, and Kariv, implying that they would advance efforts for mass conversions.
Speaking to The Post, Kariv rejected the claim that the conversion bill was designed to prevent mass abuse of the Law of Return, noting that the Reform and Conservative movements had committed to not converting anyone who was not a citizen or a legal resident in Israel in 2002.
He also said that allegations made by Deri that he worked for a refugee rights group were false, but added that he was proud of his stance that Israel should enact “humanitarian policies” toward asylum seekers.
“The court already ruled that people with no legal status in Israel cannot convert and then ask for citizenship,” he said. “And we have declared to the High Court and signed affidavits that we are not converting non-citizens and non-residents, asylum seekers, foreign workers, students or other such people.”
Kariv also stated that as Interior Minister, Deri already has all the legal means necessary to prevent the abuse of conversion for the purposes of gaining citizenship.
“He [Deri] choses to present lies in order to hide real the purpose of the legislation, which is their [the ultra-Orthodox parties’] desire to give the haredi establishment a monopoly on conversion,” said the Reform leader.
“He was once convicted for not telling the truth and spent time in jail for this, but he continues to lie for his religious and political goals.”
In comments to the Post, Jacobs rejected Deri’s claims in similarly strident tones, describing the minister’s attack on him “pathetic” and accused him of sowing disunity among the Jewish people.
“The conversion bill is a naked power grab to enshrine sole authority for conversions in Israel with the extreme and corrupt ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate,” Jacobs said.
He also objected to Deri’s characterization of proposed upgrades to the current egalitarian section by the Prime Minister’s Office, saying the renovations were insufficient.
“Without the implementation of the government’s Kotel agreement, the status quo at Robinson’s Arch is insulting and far from what the majority of Jews in the world deserve and were promised,” Jacobs said.
The PMO has said it is physically upgrading and renovating the egalitarian section, but it will not include the shared entrance with the main Western Wall complex that the original agreement included, nor will the Reform and Conservative movements have a share in its governance.
“Israel’s security and well-being depend on resisting the endless attempts by the ultra-Orthodox parties to control and demean the non-ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel and throughout the world,” Jacobs said. “Jewish pluralism isn’t a favor we seek from the Israeli government but a right of a Jewish democratic state...
“Ours is an inclusive, welcoming movement...
Far from promoting assimilation, we are what millions of Jews worldwide are seeking: a Judaism that is inclusive, passionate, intellectually rigorous, spiritually alive and committed to living the Torah’s teachings of justice, compassion and love.”