And nothing but the truth

What they are saying about non-Orthodox Judaism and rabbis: A Compilation of Quotes

Hiddush exposes the hate speech that continues to inform policy, leading to continued discrimination of non-Orthodox Jews.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting. To his right, Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen from Shas. His left hand, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman from United Torah Judaism, 28.08.2011. Photograph by: Flash 90. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting. To his right, Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen from Shas. His left hand, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman from United Torah Judaism, 28.08.2011. Photograph by: Flash 90.

In the past few months, news has surged about Israel’s first “recognized” non-Orthodox rabbis.

But side-by-side the celebrations of this historic event have been a slew of hateful words about non-Orthodox Jews and rabbis coming from many of Israel’s leading religious and political leaders. The individuals quoted below represent both Haredi and modern-Orthodox, both rabbinic figures and politicians, as well as members of the current government coalition.

Here, Hiddush presents a “Compilation of Quotes”, to show the type of language (and impact on policy) we’re facing all too often. It is our hope that by providing this glimpse into the breadth and width of those hostile attitudes that this reader, who is committed to the core values of democracy and mutual respect – understand the critical importance of urgently embracing the principle that in a democracy, all are entitled to religious freedom and equal recognition, whether they agree with each other or not.

Rabbi Amar, Israel’s Sepharadi Chief Rabbi [often presented as a moderate] :“Uprooters and destroyers of Judaism have already brought terrible and horrific destruction on the Jewish People in the Diaspora by causing terrible assimilation and uprooting all the foundations of the Torah...”God’s enemies lifted up their heads and ‘the wicked ... would not rest” (Isaiah 57:20)...Their whole intention is to undermine the sanctity of the Torah and its purity in our Holy Land...Stop the destroyers and annihilators of the vineyard of the Lord.” (Dispatch to all of Israel’s Orthodox rabbis for a meeting to protest the funding of non-Orthodox rabbis, June 17, 2012)

Shortly before this public appeal, Rabbi Amar wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu: “The decision [of the Attorney General] plants the seed for recognition of people who label themselves with rabbinic titles against the law and upset the foundations of the existence of our nation...Save our People from this disgrace, and let it not be written in the annals of history, God forbid, that your tenure has brought about this disaster.”

Again, Rabbi Amar: One needs to pray against the decision of funding non-Orthodox rabbis “no less than when missiles are launched and war is waged...The meaning of the decision is tearing the Jewish People into two, a danger that has no remedy.” (June 26th) In an interview with Rabbi Amar, he said: “The Prime Minister too agrees with us, except he is afraid of Reform Jews that may spoil his relationship with the President of the United States of America...I’ve stated this a few times [before]: The halacha is clear, that one may use a Reform convert as a “Shabbos goy”. This is permitted without any doubt!”

I’ve said it before - I’m not afraid, this is the truth...If a person would attempt to enter Russia with a Pakistani passport, would they admit him? Yes. When a person comes with an American passport and wants to enter Russia, would he be admitted? Yes. But what if he would come with a forged Russian passport?

The Muslims come with their religion and the Christians with theirs; that’s why we recognize and respect them. But Reform Jews present themselves as representatives of the Jewish faith, and that is a forgery! And we will not recognize a forgery. I said that if Reform Jews would say that they have a new religion which is not Jewish, we would recognize them, but that’s not what they do. They present themselves as Jews, and that is all forgery.

Rabbi Amar also said Reform and Conservative movements "poisoning the wells of holiness," leading followers to "nethermost pit."

Rabbi Ratzon Arousi, Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Ono and member of the Chief Rabbinic Council: “The State of Israel lends a hand to an unprecedented historic forgery...If I want to create a new trend in the world of law, and I demand that my people be recognized as

Rabbi Amar: “Their whole intention is to undermine the sanctity of the Torah and its purity in our Holy Land”

judges and be paid accordingly, would the State agree to that too?...You can’t call a fake and a forgery ‘Rabbi’, just as you can’t call a fraudulent doctor or judge. This one forges the Torah and that one forges medicine or law. Let them be called ‘religious leaders’, just like priests or imams.” (May 30, 2012)

Rabbi Haim Druckman, who until recently served as the head of the governmental Conversion Authority:  Reform and Conservative leaders were drafted to support his appointment in the midst of conversion controversy under the claim that he is lenient and tolerant. When asked about non-Orthodox rabbis, following the AG decision, said: “Rabbis? What rabbis? We’re not talking about rabbis. This is a fraud!” (May 30, 2012)

An unnamed City Rabbi, who occupies a senior position in the ultra-Orthodox community, said “The Reformers? This is not Judaism, neither is it Christianity, nor Islam--this is a new religion which is not connected to the Torah...these “rabbis” effect built a one-way bridge from Judaism to Christianity. It is known that there are no third generation Reform [Jews], and today, they barely have a second generation.” (May 30, 2012)

MK Yisrael Eichler, head of United Torah Judaism faction in the Knesset, described the decision as “another proof that the legal system [of Israel] serve as soldiers in the Reform war against the Torah…. They [those who run the legal system] found in the Reform [rabbis] priests after their own heart.” He went on to describe the Reform movement as “Christian priests who partner with the heretical legal system”, and voiced the accusation that "The governmental system to a great extent is bribed by the Reform abundant wealth.”

Joining the typical slew of hate speech from ultra-Orthodox politicians were some from the Religious Zionist camp.

Religious Zionist Minister of Science, Rabbi Professor Hershkovitz, rejected the authority of the Attorney General and the courts to make decisions in this matter and stated that “Just as they [the Courts and Attorney General] are not authorized to decide who is eligible for an academic degree, so are they not capable of deciding who is eligible for the title rabbi.” Interesting, considering the government’s funding of thousands of Orthodox rabbis.

The chair of the Knesset State Comptroller’s committee, also from the Religious Zionist camp, MK Ariel, declared that the Attorney General’s office and the Supreme Court continue to lead an anti-Jewish policy while harshly damaging Jewish values. These hateful statements run the gamut from haredi to modern Orthodox, from rabbis to politicians. Specific attention was focused on Rabbi Amar, the Chief Rabbi and his harsh statements quoted above.

But as can clearly be seen from the wide spectrum of the hateful reactions, this isn’t about an individual who is particularly hateful or vulgar, but rather a position common to the Orthodox establishment in Israel. This is not to say that there aren’t other views within the Orthodox community, but none has been heard from anyone who is in position of either rabbinic or political religious authority.

The challenge to be faced, therefore, has little to do with Rabbi Amar, or even the large scale hate speech that poured out following the announcement of the Attorney General. Our real challenge must be the fact that this language translates into actual policy. Deep seeded demonization of non-Orthodox Judaism is offensive and regrettable; but when it leads to governmental policy that undermines and discriminates against major religious streams of the Jewish People in the Jewish homeland – it is intolerable and such policy and laws must be eradicated.

We ask you to act to change the reality, which is behind these pronouncements by adding your voice to Hiddush’s vision, and by writing PM Netanyahu expressing your view so as to translate it to social action. Together we can make a difference!

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