Reform and Conservative Jews criticized Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz, who said at the cabinet meeting that the rate of assimilation among the Jewish community in the United States is "like a second Holocaust."
Journalist Barak Ravid reported that at the government meeting held on July 1, members of the Institute for Jewish People Policy presented their annual report on the situation of Jewish communities around the world, particularly in North America.
Rabbi Peretz said during the discussion that the extent of assimilation in the world and especially in North American Jewry is like a "second Holocaust." Peretz added: "We've lost 6 million Jews since the Holocaust."
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said "assimilation is not a critical problem, first of all we must stop disparaging Jews living in America who see themselves as Jews in terms of history and culture, not just religious ones."
Prime Minister Netanyahu said he is less concerned about political trends among American Jews (support for Democrats and distance from Israel), but more the demographic trends: "There's a distance from Judaism among a large part of the Jews in the United States, and it is very difficult to influence it."
Rabbi Peretz's remarks provoked outrage among the Conservatives and Reforms. "The Education Minister once again proves that he is free of understanding on basic issues, but this time he outdid himself. The linkage of the words 'second Holocaust' to the phenomenon of interfaith marriage in the Diaspora is nothing but contempt for the Holocaust. Even Holocaust denial. And wait a minute, suddenly it's permissible to talk about 'processes'?"
Meretz Chairman Nitzan Horowitz also attacked: "A second Holocaust? My family was in the Holocaust. Mixed marriages in America are not a Holocaust; Education Minister: shame."