(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
President Moshe Katsav is at a loss to understand the root of the controversy which suddenly erupted in recent days with regard to his avoiding addressing Eric Yoffie, president of the World Union for Reform Judaism, by his rabbinical title.
Throughout the almost six years of his presidency, Katsav told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, he has consistently welcomed leaders of the Reform Movement to Beit Hanassi, and the issue of the title was never raised.
"It was not raised in conversation", he said, "nor was it raised in writing".
If it was something that they wanted to discuss, he stated, they could have gone through the proper channels without making it a focal point of media attention.
It was not the president he said, who decided on matters of ordination and titles in Israel. If the Reform Movement was so insistent on the titles issue, he suggested, it should take its case to the Knesset, whose decisions are binding on the institutions of the State.
When the Post reporter reminded the president that Yoffie was recognized and addressed as "rabbi" by 1.5 million Reform Jews as well as all the members of the Conservative Movement and even by a large number of Orthodox Jews, Katsav said he had no problem in addressing Yoffie and his colleagues as 'Reform rabbi' if that's what they wanted, but he was not sure that they would be happy with that either.
Katsav made the point that even though he may have skirted the title in conversation, all correspondence to Reform rabbis from Beit Hanassi and protocols of all meetings in which they participated contained their titles.
Katsav was particularly annoyed by repeated media reference to a reception that he was allegedly hosting that Yoffie was reported to be snubbing.
He was not hosting any reception this week to which Yoffie had been invited, he said.
A senior source from the World Union of Progressive Judaism confirmed to the Post that indeed there had been no invitation for Yoffie to snub.
Such fallacious reporting said Katsav, did irreparable harm to both the institution of the presidency and to the Reform Movement.
Proof of the president's regard for the Reform Movement is evidenced in the significant role that it plays in the World Jewish Forum that he initiated. Yoffie and other Reform leaders were invited to the founders' meeting and Hebrew Union College President Rabbi David Ellenson, who is a member of the forum's steering committee, is listed with his rabbinical title.