Orthodox, Reform Jews at odds over US actions in Iraq

Agudath Israel: Reform misrepresents Judaism in opposition to the US war effort.

reform jews 224.88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
reform jews 224.88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Agudath Israel of America and the Reform movement are at odds over what Jewish values say about US military involvement in Iraq. Over the weekend, the haredi Agudath Israel accused the Reform movement of misrepresenting Judaism by pointing to Jewish values and halachic norms as the source of its opposition to the US military effort. After expressing support for US policy in Iraq as part of a wider "war against forces of evil and terror," in a statement, Agudath Israel went on to lambaste the Reform movement for what it called an illegitimate representation of Judaism. "We feel compelled to express our views at this time because the Union for Reform Judaism, purporting to have arrived at its position through an application of halachic norms and Jewish values, has publicly proclaimed its opposition to the president's policies in Iraq. "This group is entitled to its own organizational position, but that position is neither a legitimate expression of halachic Judaism nor reflective of authentic Jewish values," the press release continued. Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, said in response, "We regret that Agudath Israel did not even attempt to explain their understanding of how halacha, Jewish values, America's interests, or Israel's security are furthered by a mishandled war that has so strengthened Iran, undercut stability in the region, created a rapidly growing number of insurgents and terrorists who have developed techniques and technologies to fight our army that will plague Israel and the US for decades, distracted the US from prosecuting the war on terrorism effectively across the globe and weakened US influence among the nations of the world at such a crucial time in world affairs." Saperstein said 77 percent of American Jews believed the war in Iraq was a mistake. In a speech before AIPAC in Washington last month, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said US military involvement in Iraq was in the best interest of Israel.