Rabbi David Yosef
Rabbi David Yosef Photo: Yaakov Lederman/Flash90

A senior haredi rabbi and member of the Shas party’s rabbinical council declared that haredi Jews do not – and should not – feel hatred towards Reform Jews, but are repulsed by “the path” of the Reform movement.

This is the view espoused by Religious Zionist Rabbis as well, as expressed by the late Torah giant Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.

Rabbi David Yosef, brother of the Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and son of the former Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, made the comments at his weekly Torah lecture at the Yehaveh Daat synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Hostilities between the Orthodox – and in particular, the haredi Orthodox – community in Israel and the Reform movement in North America have intensified in recent weeks, after Prime Minister Netanyahu’s haredi coalition partners froze plans to expand a mixed-gender Reform prayer area at the Western Wall Plaza, and a bill nixing private conversions gained coalition backing.

While less than one percent of Israeli Jews are affiliated with Reform congregations in Israel, Reform and Conservative leaders in the US and Canada have sought formal recognition from the State of Israel for decades, lobbying successive Israeli coalition governments and pursuing lawsuits to win recognition for non-traditional conversions and government funding of Reform institutions.

All the religious parties, on the other hand, have pushed to maintain the status quo on religion and state established prior to the founding of Israel in 1948.

Weighing in on the ongoing political battle, Rabbi Yosef emphasized that the dispute remains a matter of principle, and that despite the vitriol from both sides, haredi Jews still see members of the Reform movement as their brothers (as do Religious Zionists, ed.). The Reform movement and its ideology, however, is a legitimate object of hatred, said Rabbi Yosef, due to its efforts to uproot traditional Judaism.

“There are Reform Jews, and we don’t hate them. But we hate – and I mean really hate – their approach. They all mock Judaism – the Reform are making a mockery of Judaism. Their ‘Judaism’ includes desecration of the Sabbath. They erase all that is dear and holy to us. They are erasing the commandments of the Torah. So we hate their approach, but we don’t hate the people. We pity them.”

With that, Rabbi Yosef said that challenging the Reform movement’s agenda in Israel was crucial, even if it creates political divisions.

“We don’t hate Jews, [but[ there are some who attack the religion and fight us. There are those [among us] who say there is baseless hatred [between Jews in the haredi camp]. True, there is baseless hatred. But while we need to repent for baseless hatred, we shouldn’t repent from doing what we’re obligated to do. There are some cases where any Jew who cares about God’s honor needs to be ‘divisive’.”