July 12: Readers react to Religious Services Minister David Azoulay’s statements

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
With regard to “US Jewish leaders blast Azoulay for insult to Reform Jews” (July 9), this matter demonstrates the desperation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold on to power at any price by not firing Religious Services Minister David Azoulay from his important position.
It’s not just that this mean-spirited, self-righteous government minister says something to purposely hurt others – he further alienates Israel supporters. And we know how fragile that sector of the American people is from your recent coverage of the Frank Luntz survey reports (“Luntz: Coordinated PR campaign can stop Iran deal,” July 6).
Azoulay and his boss, Shas leader Arye Deri, are in the catbird seats making laws, regulations and policies that reflect their contempt for non-Orthodox Jews. (Reform is just their euphemism.) They already usurped power from Bayit Yehudi on matters like conversions and divorce. Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett ran against these policies and politicos, but is too weak and self-engrossed to challenge them.
Despite his kind words, Netanyahu does nothing. Any leader worth his salt would fire a bigot from his government.
As one California liberal rabbi quipped this past week, the greatest proponent of the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement is Israel – it boycotts us, delegitimizes us and sanctions us until its needs us to lobby politicians and raise money.
Beit Shemesh/Chicago
Religious Services Minister David Azoulay’s comments about Reform Jews is symptomatic of the divisiveness of today’s society. God created man in His image. We have to worry about our own religious observance first and foremost before we criticize or ridicule that of others.
What really bothers me, though, is the steady decline in moral values and the lack of response by our rabbis and spiritual leaders.
Public-office morality is at an all-time low. Mayors are convicted and MKs are under investigation. A former chief rabbi could be imprisoned, a former president has been imprisoned, and a former prime minister is appealing his sentences. There is indecent behavior in the police and the armed forces. Where and when is this decline going to stop? Never mind the debate of “who is a Jew.” It is time for our rabbis and spiritual leaders to lead and speak out.
The public should demand open debates to discuss the malaise in our society. We have had social demonstrations, tent cities and cottage- cheese protests. It is time for each and every one of us to protest the moral decay eating away at the fabric of our society.
Not to protest will hasten its demise. It is not a question of who is a Jew, but a question of who is moral.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was right in rejecting Religious Services Minister David Azoulay’s hurtful remarks. What Azoulay should remember is that he is not God, and he, under our religion, is not entitled to remove recognition of anyone’s status as a Jew.
This outburst might be a good opportunity to remind our extreme religious brethren of their failure, from the rabbis on down, to live by Judaism as they should. They are more concerned with the ceremonial side of the religion, which is the least important. Virtually no attention is given to ethics and morals.
Let’s list the subjects that should obtain the fullest attention of our rabbis: • Converting hundreds of thousands of Jews who, because of no fault of their own, are not “pure Orthodox Jews.” The fact that they fight to protect our state and very often die in battle is of no interest to the rabbis.
• We have yeshivot where many students were pushed by their parents before coming to realize what they were getting themselves into. There are absolutely no standards or demands on achievement, as were required in eastern Europe before World War II, where only the best were accepted. Here, the rabbis need huge numbers to justify the existence of their institutions.
Research should be done to evaluate today’s academic results with those of the great centers of learning that once were.
• We all know that saving a Jewish life has the highest priority in Judaism. Absolutely precious little is being done by our rabbis to make this possible.
Generally, only the non-observant fulfill this mitzva while rabbis do their best to discourage the donation of organs. How do they sleep at night? • Sadly, there are cases where rabbis err, but one never hears more senior rabbis criticize them.
• One does not hear sermons placing major emphasis on ethics and morals. More such sermons could have a positive influence.
• There are no longer rabbis of the caliber of Abraham Isaac Kook and others who could bring about a Sanhedrin, which would enable us to escape the image of our Muslim cousins who are stuck in a religion that has not changed in over 1,000 years!
Kiryat Ono
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, was quick to express his outrage at the absurd claim by Religious Services Minister David Azoulay that Reform Jews are not Jewish. As a Reform Jew who made aliya from the US, I understand that Azoulay is a corpulent buffoon and cannot discern between the different branches of Judaism, and can brush it off.
On the other hand, the Reform movement under Jacobs’s leadership has become a bastion of animosity toward Israel. The majority of rabbis graduating from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion have negative views toward Israel.
A young rabbi from a major Atlanta synagogue who was leading a tour group here in June wrote on his blog that he would henceforth boycott the City of David because he (falsely) believed the management was colluding with the IDF and Israel Police to evict Arabs from east Jerusalem. He also wrote that the Western Wall was not that significant a symbol, and that saying “Masada shall not fall again” was ill-advised.
Jacobs himself was quick to jump on the bandwagon and accuse Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of racism after the Israeli election. He recently asked the clergy and membership of his movement to refrain from criticizing Israel only on two days a year – Israel’s Independence Day and Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers.
It is Rabbi Jacobs who is uttering incoherent slander against Israel and, by proxy, the Jewish people, and causing irreparable damage.
Tel Aviv
I’m at a loss to understand the furor over Religious Services Minister David Azoulay or anyone else relating to who is a Jew and who isn’t. No matter what Azoulay says, as long as I was born to a Jewish mother, and unless I specifically request not to be considered a Jew, I will die a Jew.
Whether I attend synagogue or not, whether I believe in God or not, nothing Azoulay says will take away the fact that I am a Jew and will remain so even after I am gone!
From the halachic point of view, 10 hardened criminals can form a minyan, but nine learned rabbis can’t. This is not to make any comparison, of course, but by the same logic, 10 Reform Jews can make a minyan, but nine members of Shas cannot.
A Jew is a Jew, Mr. Azoulay.
Get used to it.