Senior religious-Zionist rabbis denounce contact with Reform leaders

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed participated in panel discussion with Reform rabbis evoking ire of the chief rabbi and most recently leading rabbinical figures in the religious-Zionist community.

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/LAHAV ARARAT)
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
Some of the most senior rabbis in the conservative wing of the religious-Zionist community have condemned all contact between Orthodox and Reform rabbis, describing any such relations as “a terrible desecration of God’s name.”
The letter was an indirect reference to Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, himself a senior religious-Zionist rabbi, who participated in a panel discussion in the summer with French Reform Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur in an online conference held by the Makor Rishon newspaper in June.
Melamed faced heavy criticism at the time, but refused to back down and defended his participation in the panel debate and his engagement with non-Orthodox leaders.
The letter by the religious-Zionist leaders follows similar criticism by Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, who reportedly wrote to Melamed and severely chastised him over the meeting, even threatening him with excommunication.
“Loving every single Jew, including those who have become distanced from observance of the Torah and commandments, is applicable at all times,” wrote the religious-Zionist rabbis in an open letter published on Tuesday.
“But this does not mean there is any permission, God forbid, for cooperation with official representatives of the Reform movement, which has uprooted the Torah and fights today to uproot everything of holiness in our country, including on conversion, at the Western Wall, marriage, the sanctity of marriage, and other issues,” wrote the rabbis.
The rabbis, including senior yeshiva deans and municipal chief rabbis, committed to excluding Reform representatives from events related to religious matters and to refusing all contact with Reform officials.
The letter was signed by Rabbi Dov Lior, the former chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba and one of the most senior religious-Zionist arbiters of Jewish law, Rabbi Zvi Thau, the hard-line president of the Har Hamor yeshiva, and Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu.
In total, 22 rabbis signed the letter.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Reform movement in Israel, said in response that the religious-Zionist rabbis were “increasing hatred and division in Israeli society and the Jewish people during a health crisis instead of encouraging dialogue, moderation and tolerance.”
He added that the fact that some of the signatories are public servants in their roles as municipal chief rabbis made their public letter even more serious.
Kariv asserted that “the one comfort” was that the rabbis signatory to the letter were “known for their extremist positions and their lack of tolerance for a variety of communities in Israel and the Diaspora,” and that they only served to underline that “there is growing readiness” in other parts of the religious-Zionist community, and even in the ultra-Orthodox sector, for dialogue with the non-Orthodox.