US Reform Jews 'boycott' Israeli minister

After Yariv Levin blasted Reform movement for rampant 'assimilation,' movement strikes back by canceling meeting with him.

Cynthia Blank,

Minister Yariv Levin
Minister Yariv Levin
Hadas Parush / Flash 90

After Tourism Minister Yariv Levin asserted US Reform Jews would become "irrelevant" within two generations, the denomination hit back by scrapping a planned meeting between the minister and community representatives. 

The Likud minister made the critical remarks in the wake of a government decision last week to allow non-Orthodox denominations of Judaism an expanded site for prayer at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem. 

"The Reform Jews in the United States are a waning world," Levin charged during the Cabinet discussion on the proposal. "The assimilation there is of enormous extent. They don't even properly track [the assimilation] inside their communities." 

In response, the head of Israel's Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, called in a letter to the Reform Jewish community in the US on Wednesday to stop cooperating with Levin. 

According to a report on Army Radio Thursday morning, his US counterpart Rabbi Rick Jacobs was quick to comply. 

"As long as he (Levin) doesn't think that Diaspora Jews have the right to voice opinions on matters such as the Kotel, there's no reason to give him a platform in Jewish communities and organizations in the United States,"Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, told Army Radio. "Minister Levin will not teach us what support for Israel is."

In the wake of Kariv's urging, a meeting between Levin and several Reform Jewish leaders planned by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and scheduled for the US next week was canceled. 

A source close to Levin quoted in the Army Radio report dismissed Kariv's attack as political, noting that the rabbi was a member of the Labor party and had even vied for a spot in the Knesset during last year's election. 

Levin responded by saying it was "upsetting that at a time when [Israel is] fighting to explain to the world why a boycott is an illegitimate tool, a representative of Reform Judaism would take the unacceptable route of boycott. We cannot ignore the harsh reality of increasing assimilation. I will continue to say things clearly and work decisively to block this serious phenomena."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemned Levin's initial comments at the urging of several US Jewish groups, declaring "Reform and Conservative Jews are part and parcel of the Jewish people and should be treated with respect."




top