Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) MKs and public figures on Sunday criticized Jewish Agency chairman-elect Doron Almog for participating in the Reform movement’s annual convention in Israel.
The "first place I have chosen to be"
Two days after being elected chairman of the Jewish Agency, Almog was under fire from haredi leaders for choosing a forum hosted by the Reform movement as his first public event.
In a video posted by Walla, Almog told the conference attendees – including Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism in North America; and Labor MK Gilad Kariv – about his eldest daughter, now 43, who had an aliyah to the Torah during her bat mitzvah in a Reform synagogue.
“When she was 12, she said, ‘I am going to get an aliyah to the Torah,’” he said. “My wife and I did not know too much about Reform synagogues, but she [his daughter] found out” where there was one. “She got her aliyah, and there was a great joy. We still have the photo of her wearing a tallit and reading the haftarah [additional Shabbat reading] in our house.”
Almog began his speech by saying: “This is the first place I have chosen to be after I have been elected” as chairman of the agency.
“Doron Almog's quick and unnecessary flattery of the Reform movement indicates that he is not worthy of his new position.”Shas MK Moshe Arbel
"A beginner's mistake?"
In response, Shas MK Moshe Arbel said: “Doron Almog’s quick and unnecessary flattery of the Reform movement indicates that he is not worthy of his new position. Unfortunately, instead of being a unifying factor, he chose a separating tactic.”
Oren Henig, director of the haredi Liba Center lobbying organization, said: “Today, it became clear that the appointment of Jewish Agency chairman Doron Almog was intended to please the Reform minority and force the entire people to an anti-traditional distortion. Almog revealed at the Reform conference that he and his family belong to the Reform community.”
Jewish Agency board member Rabbi Pesach Lerner, who is also chairman of the haredi American Eretz Hakodesh (Holy Land) Party in the World Zionist Organization, said: “The chairman of the Jewish Agency should serve as a figure who is not affiliated with a political movement and should deal exclusively with issues of immigration and strengthening the connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. I hope that Doron Almog’s appearance and remarks on Saturday are a beginner’s mistake and do not represent his professional position regarding the role of the Jewish Agency.”
Reform movement comments
Reform Movement in Israel chairman Yair Lotstein said: “The attacks on Almog’s participation in a conference attended by thousands of Israelis and whose values identify with hundreds of thousands of Israelis belonging to the mainstream of contemporary Judaism testifies more than anything to the narrow horizons and complete lack of understanding of the role of the Jewish Agency and the fundamental values of the State of Israel.
“The Reform movement will continue to work toward equality and freedom of religion in Israel and for strengthening the connection between the State of Israel and the liberal streams in the Diaspora.”
In a letter obtained by The Jerusalem Post that Almog sent to Jewish leaders in Israel and in the Diaspora, he said he had “received a Jewish education at the center of which the holiest element is the Land of Israel, the State of Israel, the people of Israel and the heritage of Israel.”
Almog said his daughter, Nitzan, “chose to get an aliyah to the Torah at the age of 12, 31 years ago, because her brother Eran, who was born with a severe disability, was unable to get his own aliyah.”
“No one in our family has belonged to a Reform community, and I do not intend to join a Reform community or any community for that matter,” he said. “I joined [the Jewish Agency] to unite [all Jews]. We are all brothers. The split [within the nation of Israel] led to the destruction of the First and Second Temples. We must not give up on any Jew.”
“The agency under my leadership will focus on issues that unite and are common to the entire Jewish people,” Almog said at the end of his address.