Haredi MKs furious over Netanyahu Reform comments

UTJ Health Minister warns pledge by prime minister to support Reform, Conservative movements in breach of coalition agreements.

Ari Soffer ,

Yaakov Litzman
Yaakov Litzman
Hadas Parush/Flash 90

Haredi MKs are up in arms Tuesday, over comments made by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at an address to Jewish leaders in Washington.

Speaking at the Jewish Federations of North America annual General Assembly, Netanyahu said he was initiating unprecedented measures to support non-Orthodox as well as Orthodox Jewish streams in Israel.

For American Jews - the vast majority of whom belong to either the Reform or Conservative movements - the fact that Israel only recognizes and supports normative Orthodox Judaism as a mainstream Jewish movement is a source of major discontent, and Netanyahu's olive branch was warmly greeted by the audience.

But in Israel, where Reform, Conservative and other non-Orthodox movements are a tiny minority, the prime minister's words have already triggered anger.

Unlike Orthodox (or Halakhic) Judaism, the Reform and Conservative movements do not adhere strictly to Jewish law, and in most cases actively deny aspects (or all of) the Torah. As such, mainstream Jewish authorities note that conversions, marriages, divorces and other rites performed by their clergy are invalid according to Jewish law, and often result in severe complications further down the line. Rabbinic authorities have warned that were it to legitimize such practices, the State of Israel would threaten the very Jewish character of the country and even "split" the Jewish people.

United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni was among the first to respond, accusing the Reform and Conservative movements of "sticking a knife in the Torah of Israel. What Netanyahu said was very severe and will require clarification when he returns to the country."

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, also of UTJ, went further, warning Netanyahu's words amounted to a possible breach of coalition agreements with the haredi parties.

"The prime minister's words in support of the Reformists harm us and explicitly contradict the coalition agreement that was signed with us," Litzman said.

Litzman accused the Reform Movement of "tearing" the Jewish people in two, and vowed that UTJ would do everything in its power to make sure Netanyahu did not make concessions to them.

"Throughout the generations we have known that the Reform and Conservatives split the Jewish people and it is forbidden to support them in harming the Torah of Israel," he stated. "We will do whatever is necessary" to prevent government funds being used to support the movements, he added.

Shas MK Yoav Ben-Tzur issued a response as well: "The stance of Jewish believers regarding the Reform Movement is known and it is opposed to them in every way. This position will not change."



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