Religious Services Minister: I cannot say that Reform Jews are Jews

Reform leader calls on PM to strongly denounce comments.

American Jews who are members of the Union for Reform Judaism, formerly the Union Of American Hebrew Congregations at the Western Wall in Jerusalem‏. (photo credit: REUTERS)
American Jews who are members of the Union for Reform Judaism, formerly the Union Of American Hebrew Congregations at the Western Wall in Jerusalem‏.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Minister for Religious Services and Shas MK David Azoulai has made incendiary comments once again about non-Orthodox Jews, saying that he could not describe them as Jews.
Speaking on Army Radio on Tuesday, Azoulai said that only people who follow Jewish law can be described as Jewish and described non-Orthodox streams as “people who try and falsify” the Jewish religion.
Rabbi Gilad Karib responds to inflammatory about reform Jews
“Any Jew who observes the Torah and commandments is for us a Jew…A Reform Jew, from the moment he does not follow Jewish law I cannot allow myself to say that he is a Jew,” said the minister. 
When radio host Razi Barkai noted that non-Orthodox Jews form the majority of Jews in the US, Azoulai said that they were Jews who had “erred along the way,” 
“Those of the Reform denomination living in the Diaspora are in the majority people who have erred,” he repeated. “We would like for them to return to the lap of Judaism and we will accept them gladly and with blessings."
Azouali made similar comments last month when he said that Reform Judaism “is a disaster for the Jewish people.”
The head of the Reform movement in Israel Rabbi Gilad Kariv said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must condemn Azoulai’s comments and threaten him with dismissal from his post as minister if he repeats them.
“We do not have any expectation from Minister Azoulai, since from the very beginning of his tenure he has taken every opportunity to create division and argument,” Kariv told The Jerusalem Post.
“Our expectations are that the prime minister will take steps against Azoulai and tell him that if he repeats these sentiments he will be fired. The ball is the prime minister’s court and this is a test of how serious he is.”
Kariv added that the Israeli public was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the religious establishment and the haredi political parties and that Azoulai’s comments about Reform Jews would lead to greater public support for “full equality for all Jewish denominations in Israel.”
Yizhar Hess, the director of the Masorti (Conservative) movement also called on the prime minister to censure the minister.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu must put an end to the way his ministers express their racist views about other Jews. We cannot continue with this atmosphere of the delegitimization of Jews in the Jewish state.”
The Ruderman Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization, issued a statement calling Azoulai’s comments “offensive” to the vast majority of Diaspora Jews and many Israelis.”
 "Prime minister Netanyahu should make it clear to the minister and the public that such statements do not represent the position of his government and that any further derogatory comments will result in the minister's dismissal," stated Jay Ruderman, president of the Foundation.
”Diaspora Jews, and especially American Jews where Reform Judaism is the largest Jewish religious affiliation, are critical to Israel's sense of well being and security. Representatives of Israel's government should treat them accordingly."