Minister of Religious Services, David Azoulai (Shas), said Tuesday that Reform Jews are not Jewish, in his eyes.
"A Reform Jew, once he does not follow the religion of Israel – then let us say, there is a problem. I cannot allow myself to say that he is Jewish,” he told Army Radio.
"These are Jews who took a wrong turn along the road and we need to ensure that every Jew will go back into the fold of Judaism and accept everyone with love and joy,” he added.
"Unfortunately,” he said, “the Reforms who live abroad live in the Diaspora, most of them are people who made a mistake, like babes who were taken captive, and we would like for all of those Jews to go back to Judaism according to halacha (Jewish law – ed.). That is all.”
Regarding the conversion dispute in Israel, Min. Azoulai said: “There is a halacha today, and the halacha says what the rules are for converting. For all those who come and wish to convert, there is a certain process. The tendency is to make it easier for these people, to [establish] more panels for conversion and thus solve the problem, in effect.
"You should remember,” he added, “this is no longer in our hands. Today this is going to the Prime Minister's Office, to streamline the process.”
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said Sunday that he, and the Jewish Agency, were “troubled” by the decision of the government earlier Sunday to reform the conversion system in Israel. Under the plan, control of conversions will be placed under the Rabbinical Courts, reversing the law that would have allowed individuals seeking to convert to approach rabbis outside of their home towns, and would have created conversion courts in every town, with a large degree of autonomy.
“The establishment of the local courts was supposed to be the solution for tens of thousands of new immigrants and their children who are in great need of conversion services, and wish to join the Jewish people as fully recognized members.
“We cannot accept that a such an important issue for the future of the Jewish people will be decided based on coalition politics,” said Sharansky. “We cannot allow this to be based on promises made to one party or another.”
Return of the conversion process to the Rabbinate was a condition for the participation of Shas in the current government.