A number of Orthodox American organizations have written letters of support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government, while criticizing a letter sent by the Jewish Agency expressing concerns over it. At the same time, Conservative rabbis expressed worry over Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s judicial reforms.
Earlier, heads of large Jewish organizations and national Israeli institutions had sent a letter to Netanyahu stating their concerns about voices critical of the government, issued particularly during election season. The letter was sent on behalf of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), The Jewish Agency, Keren Hayesod and the World Zionist Organization (WZO). “It is our duty to share with you our deep concern regarding voices in the government on issues that could undermine the long-standing status quo on religious affairs that could affect the Diaspora,” the letter stated.
The Jewish Agency said in response to the letter by these groups: “It must be noted that these comments that have been made to you do not represent the voices of all Diaspora Jewry. We deeply regret that the voices of Diaspora Jewry were used to express a position in Israel’s political discourse against the government, headed by you.”
The Eretz Hakodesh letter reads: “The movement, which represents thousands of Jews in the Diaspora, share[s] with you the true stance of many of the members of the Jewish communities in the US and over the world, who share in the joy of the establishment of a strong national government.”
Eretz Hakodesh is an ultra-Orthodox political party in the World Zionist Congress. Established in 2020, it garnered an unprecedented 25,000 votes and 25 seats in the election, surprising all the other parties, many of whom have been part of the congress since the establishment of the Zionist movement.
The letter was signed by its chairman, Rabbi Pesach Lerner as well as a party delegate, Stephen L. Rosedale, both of whom are members of the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors.
The two asked Netanyahu for a meeting with senior Jewish figures from the Diaspora who support him and his government in the letter.
An additional letter, written by the Coalition for Jewish Values, was sent to Jewish Agency Board of Governors Chairman Mark Wilf: “We are writing to express our concern and disappointment regarding the recent letter to Netanyahu. All of these bodies were chartered and are intended to represent all mainstream Jewish groups. Indeed, they are among the few Jewish organizations to welcome full diversity of opinion, providing space for internal debate and discussion.”
The Coalition for Jewish Values is a right-wing Orthodox Jewish advocacy organization in the US. It claims to be the largest rabbinic public policy organization in America, but it isn’t clear exactly how much support they actually have in the Jewish community.
The coalition members shared their “disappointment,” that the “views of so many constituents, including both the vast majority of America’s rabbis and the apparent majority of voters in the last World Zionist Congress election, were not reflected in the letter, and there was no effort to solicit input from diverse voices within the Jewish community.”
They criticized the previous government, which “further dispensed with the Status Quo Agreement by turning kosher certification from a genuine standard set by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate into a leaderless, standard-free bureaucracy, such that no serious kosher consumer can so much as pick up a falafel at a street vendor under local Israeli government certification without tedious investigation of the rabbi and supervision in that location.”
They concluded by writing to Wilf that they “strongly encourage you to consider if you truly have the backing of those Jews most focused upon Israel, such as the World Zionist Organization voters and America’s rabbinic leaders, in future letters.”
Meanwhile, the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative/Masorti rabbis in the US, issued a letter on Wednesday blasting Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposed judicial reforms.
“We must do all we can to not allow the incoming government to damage the court for political gain,” the letter reads. “We are deeply alarmed by the attempted subversion of the authority of Israel’s High Court by newly appointed Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin and his government.”
The letter continues, “Israel flourishes as the Middle East’s only democracy, guaranteed and sustained by an independent High Court. The timing of this new bill is transparently self-serving for those in power and risks weakening the Jewish and democratic character of Israel. It is excruciating to see this government directly undermine the core values of democracy and religious freedom that we value so deeply.”
The Rabbinical Assembly emphasized, “We must do all we can to not allow the incoming government to damage the court for political gain.” It called on lawmakers to “speak out against these measures and others like them: the integrity of the State of Israel and the well-being of the entire Jewish people hang in the balance.”
They added that they would “continue to advocate against these measures and others like them in order to preserve Israel as the democratic and Jewish nation envisioned 75 years ago by the country’s founders and for generations to come.”
“The RA proudly stands for the rights of all and champions the integrity and independence of the High Court, which has historically safeguarded minority rights against the threat of tyranny by the majority,” the Rabbinical Assembly continued. “The justice minister’s interference with judicial review and particularly the proposed ‘override clause’ not only threaten the fundamental rights of Masorti/Conservative Jews everywhere, but the rights of all Israel’s citizens and residents, regardless of their affiliation to any particular religious movement, nationality of origin, or ethnic background.”