To Arye Deri: Dividing Jews is not part of your portfolio

Deri further launched his attack against Tzohar in the context of us being a religious Zionist organization.

Aryeh Deri  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Aryeh Deri
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
As reported in yesterday’s edition of The Jerusalem Post, Arye Deri, the head of the Shas Party and a government minister, chose to launch a direct frontal attack on the good will of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization. Speaking before an audience of many like-minded rabbis unlikely to challenge his statements, he disparaged our ongoing work strengthening the identity of hundreds of thousands of Jews in Israel and across the world over the past 21 years.
Deri attempted to deride our accomplishments by alleging that we are a “borderline Reform” organization – a label which in his mind expresses the ultimate in depravity.
While I personally have a differing outlook on Jewish observance and on many aspects of tradition from those held by proponents of the Reform movement, I continue to contend that we must remain one people with one heart. Creating a wedge between our people and inspiring baseless hatred by using angry labels and pitting one Jew against another will never help us achieve greater Jewish unity.
For a minister of the Jewish state to act in such a careless fashion calls into question his very legitimacy as a representative of that state. I would therefore respectfully call upon him to avoid fostering greater division within a society that is already sadly divided.
Deri further launched his attack against Tzohar in the context of us being a religious Zionist organization. I would certainly never shy away from the fact that we are an organization of religious rabbis with an unwavering passion for the State of Israel. To be included in such a group is a source of great pride and certainly not something for which one should ever apologize. But I would also respond by saying that we don’t need a hechsher (kosher certification) from anyone – and certainly not from a public official who attempts to make political gains by insulting other groups of Jews.
Minister Deri’s statements were made on the eve of the first of the month of Elul.
This traditionally is a time of year when Jews work to reflect on their past mistakes and find ways to come closer to their fellow Jews as well as our Creator.
At this time of prayer and introspection, we are strengthened in our resolve that we will never be swayed in our desire to reach out to our fellow Jews and approach them with love and respect in the hopes of creating a stronger and more united Israel and Jewish world.
I would respectfully implore Arye Deri to similarly use this time to reflect on his tone and his approach to Jews who might think differently than he.
In that hope, we can all look forward to the coming year being one of unity rather than further division.
The author is founder and chairman of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization.