Rabbi Amsalem: Haredi establishment responsible for assimilation

"The equation is very simple: Hinder conversions, ease assimilation; ease conversions, hinder assimilation."

Mordechai Sones ,

Rabbi Haim Amsalem
Rabbi Haim Amsalem
Efrat Tzahor

Rabbi Haim Amsalem, who left the Shas party due to a policy rift and is now a candidate for the Jewish Home party primaries after the attempt to run his own Sephardic party in the last elections failed to gain him a Knesset seat, arrived today for a Knesset hearing on the crisis between Diaspora Jewry and the State of Israel.

Rabbi Amsalem pulled no punches while sharing his opinion on the subject of the hearing. He is known for criticizing the Chief Rabbinate's conversion policies, which he considers too stringent and which he often compares unfavorably with the opinions of Sephardic rabbis on the subject.

He quoted the Bible's words calling for the Ingathering of the Exiles, but charged that today, the State of Israel behaves in the opposite manner: "I blame the rabbinic and Torah establishments and all the State's institutions because they brutalize those seeking to convert with a heavy, unyielding, and un-halakhic hand, and instead of drawing people close we are dividing the Jewish nation and distancing it from ourselves - and this is a grave sin."

The Rabbi recalled the Jewish world's support for the establishment of the State of Israel as a guide to Diaspora relations: "I suggest a different, attractive approach styled after that of Harav Uziel and all the great Rabbis of Israel who went in his path - to draw close and embrace and find every way possible not to lose a single Jewish soul and not to do what the State of Israel is doing in so many issues: Conversions, nullifying conversions, non-recognition of conversions performed by community rabbis - all these things are exasperating, against the halakha, and infuriating."

Rabbi Amsalem attacked the approach of the haredi Members of Knesset who say there is no connection between Judaism and Reform: "The haredi MK's are misled and they mislead others. Yes, they have the State by the throat and they dictate policy. But I believe a day will come when things will change and for this reason I am returning to politics because this extreme haredi approach must cease and the State must understand who means for her good and who seeks to turn the Jewish people into a nation of maybe one million Jews, and all the rest, as far as they are concerned - the secular, Conservatives, Reform, and actually anyone who doesn't identify with the haredi way...are on the other side of the fence and out of the camp.

"Oppressing the Reform is a divisive, extreme approach that does not understand the role of the State of Israel and the mission of the Jewish people today - to bring all the lost children back to the bosom of the Jewish Nation," Rabbi Amsalem charged.

According to Rabbi Amsalem's way of thinking, even assimilation is the result of stringencies rather than a result of Jews wanting to be the same as everyone else in the diaspora: "The equation is very simple: Hinder conversions, ease assimilation; ease conversions, hinder assimilation. The one who is causing this unending, snowballing assimilation is this approach which counters that of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel at the time of the State's establishment, which was a Zionist rabbinate."