Reform leaders in the U.S. are calling for the removal of MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu) from the leadership of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, after he said that Reform Judaism wasn't really “Jewish,” but a “different religion.” Rick Jacobs, a top leader of the U.S. reform movement, said that Rotem's comments were “very serious” and “cannot be allowed to pass without action.”
Rotem made the comments during a committee meeting Tuesday, immediately prompting sharp responses from several American Jewish community officials. In a letter Wednesday, ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman demanded that Rotem apologize. In the letter, Foxman said that Rotem's views “are inappropriate, offensive and unjustified.”
In a statement, Gilad Kariv, the head of the Israel Reform movement, demanded that Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein reprimand Rotem. “This assertion makes it impossible for Rotem to continue chairing discussions on issues such as conversion, who is a Jew and other matters concerning religion and state, and the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora.”
“Rotem does not understand what he is talking about and does not understand how serious his comments are,” said Jacobs. “Rotem is deligitimizing a large American movement." Rotem, he said, was confusing the issues as well, since Reform Jews were recognized as Jews under the Law of the Return, "so he is wrong in calling them 'not Jewish.'"
In a Facebook posting Thursday, Rotem said he had been misunderstood. "Being a member of the Reform movement does not make anyone less Jewish," he wrote. "I never said that. As an Orthodox Jew I have theological differences with Reform's perspective, but I maintain the greatest respect for all Jews, regardless of their background or denomination." Apologizing for the misunderstanding, Rotem said that we hoped the incident could be used to further Jewish unity.