Right-wing Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich spoke favorably about Reform and Conservative Jews on Tuesday night in an interview with the religious-Zionist Mizrachi organization’s website.
The interview was part of an election event with eight party representatives, including six party heads, which will be broadcast on the website on Sunday.
“We need to maintain a dialogue with North American Jewish communities because we are a Jewish state that is the home of the entire Jewish people,” Smotrich said. “This does not mean there are no conflicts, and this does not mean there are no disputes. There are many things I disagree about with Reform and Conservative Jewry. But I understand that we are brothers. We need to speak and have a dialogue and look for common ground.”
He spoke at the same time that the United Torah Judaism Party released a campaign ad that compared non-Orthodox converts to dogs. Smotrich himself was critical of a Supreme Court ruling on Monday that Reform and Conservative conversions performed in Israel would be accepted by the state for the purposes of obtaining citizenship under the Law of Return. Until now, those conversions were valid only if performed outside of Israel.
Smotrich learned about the challenges facing North American Jews three years ago, when he visited Jewish communities in the US as part of a delegation of MKs sponsored by the Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federations of North America.
“Suddenly, an entire world of Diaspora Jewry that I was not familiar with was revealed to me,” he said. “I have maintained a connection with the leadership of the Jewish Federations of North America because I really understand that many things we do here in Israel have an impact on what happens overseas.”
Smotrich also praised immigrants to Israel from English-speaking countries.
“This important community, which made aliyah and left behind in the US a good life, family, a livelihood and a good environment, cares about the State of Israel and the people of Israel more than about its own interests,” he said. “The Anglo-Saxon community knows what Zionism is and knows what it means to pay a price for its values.”
Smotrich said the challenges facing Jews from North America include maintaining their sense of community and finding housing solutions, employment and education that fit with their language and mentality and what they want to achieve.
“I didn’t face that test of disconnecting myself from my natural environment, and I haven’t had to deal with the challenges of language,” he said. “Those who did it and sacrificed themselves know what they sacrificed themselves for.”