Yated Ne'eman Interview with MK Rabbi Yitzak Pindrus

The Ultra-Orthodox Reform Paranoia

In recent months, the phenomenon of ultra-Orthodox attacks against Reform Judaism has escalated, especially due to the participation of Rabbi Gilad Kariv (the foremost Israeli Reform leader) in the new ruling coalition.

Gilad KarivGilad Kariv

Over the years, we have reported on various occasions and ways in which the ultra-Orthodox rabbinical and political leadership have attacked the Reform movement. In recent months, we reported that this phenomenon has escalated, especially due to the participation of Rabbi Gilad Kariv (the foremost Israeli Reform leader) in the new ruling coalition, further rising over his appointment as chairman of the Knesset Law and Constitution Committee. In Hiddush’s most recent newsletter, we reported that MK Porush (UTJ) compared Rabbi Kariv to a pig; and just today, in an interview, the UTJ leader MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni said, “I don’t recognize Gilad Kariv. I treat him like air.”

One cannot escape the conclusion that this isn’t merely an expression of strong criticism of a competing religious stream but has rather entered the realm of paranoia. What we now face is a combination of this malady and a tendency to use extreme highfalutin language, both with regards to delegitimizing and demonizing their opponents and aggrandizing their leaders. So, with regard to their political critics, such as Avigdor Liberman, Yair Lapid, and others, they often impute to them antisemitic and racist motivations, even though clearly neither are at the root of their critical review of ultra-Orthodox harm to Israel’s well-being.

The ultra-Orthodox leadership has gone as far as demanding that Israel’s criminal law be changed to penalize criticism of ultra-Orthodox conduct as being an act of criminal, racist incitement. There has been extraordinarily little indication of ultra-Orthodox concern with racism in general, and, furthermore, one can always use the ultra-Orthodox media as a model for incitement against others, whether they be opposing ultra-Orthodox views, Modern Orthodoxy, secular, or the non-Orthodox.

A recent interview given by MK Yitzhak Pindrus, Chair of the UTJ Knesset faction demonstrates new heights of paranoia. As the headline suggests, a central theme of the interview is Pindrus’ contention that the new coalition came together, not so much to unseat Netanyahu, which he considers only secondary, but, first and foremost, to provide the Reform movement with a foothold in Israel.

Following is a selection of passages from his lengthy interview in Yated Ne’eman [official daily of the Degel HaTorah party (which is part of UTJ) – the party of the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox Lithuanian wing], which, in addition to its outlandish explanation for the Israeli political earthquake, is resorting to known and unwelcome claims that Reform Judaism is responsible for harm done to the Jewish people worse than the Holocaust.

This text, by way of example, not only gives our readers an insight into how deep-seated and extreme the Haredi hatred towards Reform Judaism is, but it also suggests that it is high time for both diaspora and Israeli leadership to move beyond utilitarian political interests and a sentimental misreading of the Jewish past and present – towards seeing the incompatibility of the Haredi parties with any genuine concern for the well-being and democratic Jewish character of the State of Israel. Clearly, the time has come for diaspora leadership to demand that mainstream Israeli parties denounce and dissociate themselves from these fundamentalist groups, which pose far-reaching threats to Jewish unity and a healthy relationship between Israel and world Jewry.


Interview with MK Rabbi Yitzak Pindrus

July 6th, 2021, Yated Ne’eman

Headline: The goal of the government is to give a foothold to the Reform. Deposing Netanyahu was only a secondary goal.

“… MK Rabbi Yitzhah Pindrus’ (Chair of UTJ Knesset faction) speeches, over the course of the last two weeks were mostly dedicated to one central theme. He emphasized that the main threat represented by the current government is opening gates of legitimacy to the Reform [Jews] to enter all centers of decision-making in Israel… the government’s central consensus is to harm the status quo and to give a foothold to the Reform, whereas bringing Netanyahu down is only the secondary, unifying goal…

“… It’s those who wear kippas who are quick to harm, destroy, and annihilate the religious scene in the public domain… I opened the Yamina coalition agreement with Yesh Atid, and there are only two laws in there, other than those dealing with how the government will function, which they are in a hurry to pass within two months: changing the kashrut law and the conversion law…

“… That’s why we fight it, and our aim is to expose their disgrace in public. There is a huge difference between those who, God forbid, don’t have faith, or believe in Torah from Heaven but find it difficult to observe the commandments, and those who distort the Torah… but conveniently wave a few sections from it and pulls out his kippa and declares ‘you see? I’m kosher!’

I opened the Yamina coalition agreement with Yesh Atid, and there are only two laws in there, other than those dealing with how the government will function, which they are in a hurry to pass within two months: changing the kashrut law and the conversion law…

“In the past, when the Jerusalem municipality planned to convert a secular school into a Reform school* Rabbi Eliashiv z”l came out strongly against it. Many wondered what the difference is between secular and Reform. He explained, ‘the Reform caused a spiritual Holocaust in tens of thousands of homes, and this monster is worse than all brands of secular Jews. Secularism is absence. Secularism is an empty cart, which will still find its way to Judaism. Reform is a different cult, which changes its colors according to the changing needs.’ Namely, the secular Jew, even those who unfortunately do not believe, is [like] a kidnapped baby. He does not claim that what he says is Judaism. Therefore, he still has a change to repent. On the other hand, the Reform Jews paint their actions as mitzvot done for the sake of Heaven. As if.

QUESTION: Do you think that with the current government there is such a great danger of legitimizing the Reform penetration?”

“Regrettably, yes. The Israeli public is not aware of what Reform is, for it has hardly been successful in getting a foothold in Israel until now. On the other hand, now that they have an opportunity, as people are not aware of the danger, many good people may fall into for the legitimization campaign, which welcomes them, by a government led by people who wear kippas, which introduces Reform Judaism as ‘inclusive’ Judaism, etc. We have, for instance, seen that a representative of their heretical movement was intentionally appointed to head the Knesset Law and Constitution Committee, which is positioned at critical intersections of religion and state affairs. This did not happen by coincidence. It is also not a coincidence that the Minister of Diaspora Affairs was quick to declare that his Ministry shall grant equal recognition to the Reform, even though they hardly amount to a few percent in Israel.**

QUESTION: How do you explain the cooperation of Yamina with the Reform? Does it surprise you?”

“People think that the cooperation between Ra’am (the Islamist party) and Yamina is inconceivable; but, actually, the cooperation between the Reform movement and the government headed by religious Zionists is the inconceivable event. After all, not only have the Reform wiped out the Temple and the desire to return to Zion from their prayer books, but they have also, openly and actively, fought against the Zionist movement. They fought against the Balfour Declaration, against international recognition [of Israel]. And, after all of that, today they are an integral part of the government. Not just any government, but a government headed by Bennett, who has been fighting against the extreme leftist organizations. And today, there are those from the Reform movement who are behind the most anti-Israeli organizations…***

“… Regarding Operation Guardian of the Walls, scores of ‘rabbinical’ students in the seminaries of the heretical movement signed a letter of support for the Palestinians, while accusing Israel of racist violence and apartheid, and none of the leaders of the movement came out against them. There is no surprise here, for this is about a systematic action, consisting of Supreme Court petitions, demonstrations, protests, conferences, and more, of Reform elements in cooperation with the harshest anti-Israel leftist organizations. While some of those organizations are operating out of antisemitic motivations…

“… In the decades of its existence, the assimilation that the Reform movement led caused the loss of millions from the Jewish people, more than those that were murdered in the Holocaust…”

“… This all shows us the foresight of our past leaders, who always instructed us to join with the traditional political right. This should be no surprise, as the late Rabbi Shach explained, his decision to go with the right and not with the left in his painful outcry to the people on the left, which echoes to this very day: ‘What is Jewish about you?’



*Former Mayor Olmert should be credited with recognizing the educational merits of the Leo Baeck school in Haifa, both academically and in terms of its Jewish pluralistic approach. He invited the school to come to Jerusalem and take over and revitalize a fledgling secular school. Shortly before this initiative was implemented, the news of it caused the ultra-Orthodox factions on the city council to threaten Olmert that if he dared to bring the Reform school to Jerusalem, they would bring him down. Olmert was forced to retract his plan, but remained committed to the concept, and while it was not possible to bring Leo Baeck school to Jerusalem, he facilitated a takeover of a school by a group of parents associated with the Reform movement who assumed control over the PTA and the selection of a new principal who was attuned to the pluralistic Jewish vision. That school is still active. (-UR)

**This is ironic, for Hiddush’s repeated and other parallel surveys indicate that some 10-12% of the adult Jewish population in Israel identifies with Reform and Conservative Judaism, which is comparable to the percentage of those who identify as ultra-Orthodox. See, for instance (rising streams book in JPPI website) (-UR)

***This, too, is ironic, given the anti-Zionist theology of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, which refuses to recognize the legitimacy of Zionism and often describes the state of Israel as ‘an enemy state’, ‘exile’, ‘illegitimate’, and some of whose leaders, especially the Chassidic rabbis, prevented their followers from fleeing to Israel before and during the Holocaust. On the other hand, Pindrus consciously delves into the past and would not have his audience know that the Reform movement has made a 180 degree turn since those early phases, and it has been an active member of the Zionist movement for decades now. Its prayer books are filled with references to Zion and Jerusalem, and it encourages Aliyah to Israel. (-UR)

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