Reform and Conservative synagogues reek of hell [Gehinom] and a Jew should not even come near their entrance, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Mordechai Eliyahu said last week.
"Once I was invited to be the sandak (godfather) at a brit in a three-story building," recounted Eliyahu in his weekly flyer called Kol Tzofayich, which discusses various halachic issues.
"On the first story was a Reform temple, on the second floor was a Conservative synagogue and on the third floor was an Orthodox synagogue where I was invited.
"I wondered how I would manage to pass by those two synagogues that reek of hell. I asked if there was a way of detouring those two entrances and I was told that there was a kitchen through which it was possible to reach the third floor. I announced that I would not go up any other way besides through the kitchen so as to avoid passing by those prohibited synagogues."
In Kol Tzofayich, which also appears on the former chief rabbi's Internet site harav.org, Eliyahu uses anecdotes to teach practical Jewish law. The lesson that Eliyahu's faithful learn from this story is the rabbi's proscription against entering a non-Orthodox house of prayer.
The Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel said in response that it would sue Eliyahu for slander.
Yizhar Hess, director-general of the Masorti Movement, said in response that Eliyahu's comments were disappointing.
"It is sad that a public figure of Eliyahu's stature makes such an irresponsible and callous comment that belittles millions of Jews across the world," he said.
Rabbi Barry Schlesinger, head of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel and rabbi of the Moreshet Avraham community in East Talpiot, Jerusalem, said Eliyahu's remarks will "stoke hatred and encourage defamation of Jewish communities both in Israel and abroad where millions of Jews learn Torah and perform acts of kindness."
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