(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
In contrast to his predecessor, Moshe Katzav, who refused last year to address the head of the Reform Movement, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, as "rabbi," President Shimon Peres met Friday with a group of five newly ordained Reform rabbis at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem.
"What I appreciate in Reform Judaism is its accommodation of the best of higher Jewish values with the modern world," Peres said.
The previous week, he met with Rabbi Tony Bayfield, head of the British branch of Reform Judaism. It was the first meeting between Peres and a member of the Reform movement since Peres took office in July. Sources said the meetings were part of Peres's bid to repair damage caused by Katzav to relations between the presidential office and Reform Judaism.
During the meeting with Bayfield, Peres reportedly said, "Since the rabbis get to decide who is a Jew, the Jews should decide about who is a rabbi."
Dr. Michael Marmur, dean of the Hebrew Union College, said the change in presidents marked a new and positive era. "Up until now, Katzav had made it impossible for us to meet with him," he said. "But today there is a new breeze blowing."
"I have no interest in forcing anyone to call me rabbi against his or her will," Marmur added. "The rabbi's congregation is the one that reaffirms the title every single day."