More Than Twelve Million Left?

The ComplotIsraeli rabbi’s Holocaust remark ignites row
Reuters (1999)

JERUSALEM – An Israeli chief rabbi ignited a religious uproar on Tuesday with remarks blaming Reform Judaism for the loss of more Jews to assimilation than were wiped out in the Nazi Holocaust.

Ha’aretz newspaper quoted Sephardic Chief Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi-Doron as telling the Chief Rabbinate Council on Monday: “The damage the Reforms are causing the Jewish people through assimilation is greater in numbers than the damage caused by the Holocaust.”

The comparison, by an Orthodox Jewish religious chief, irked leaders of progressive Jewish movements and Israeli survivors of the Holocaust, in which more than six million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War Two.

Rabbi Ehud Bandel, head of the Conservative Jewish movement in Israel, said: “This is certainly incitement, nearly a call for bloodshed and such things when said by a man who bears the title ‘chief rabbi’ are no doubt desecration of God’s name.”

Bakshi-Doron told Israel Radio on Tuesday the Reform movement was contributing to assimilation by sanctioning the marriage of Jews to non-Jews and by ignoring ritual law that a Jew be the offspring of a Jewish mother or else converted in accordance with Orthodox practice.

A third of the people were lost in the Holocaust. I said that today we have a problem that the people of Israel will lose more than a third in a harsh assimilation — until the end of the Jewish people,” he said.

Bakshi-Doron’s remarks surfaced as parliament approved a bill, backed by Orthodox Jewish parties, requiring Reform and Conservative Jews on local religious councils to acknowledge the Chief Rabbinate’s authority.

Orthodox Jewish parties flex political muscle in Israel, while an overwhelming majority of U.S. Jews belong to the Reform and Conservative movements that are trying to break the Orthodox monopoly on Israeli religious affairs.

Yossi Sarid, leader of the leftist Meretz movement in Israel’s parliament, said: “Rabbi Bakshi-Doron must apologise to all of the Jewish people, and primarily to the Reforms and Conservatives.”

Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, a Holocaust survivor, said Bakshi-Doron had merely wanted to underscore that millions of U.S. Jews were being lost to assimilation — and the numbers were greater among the Reform and Conservative movements.

Bar-Ilan University President Moshe Kaveh issued a statement urging Jews everywhere to work together to save the next generation from assimilation and intermarriage. “No one has the right to write any Jew out of Jewish peoplehood. This is a time when we should be speaking and acting to preserve what little Jewish unity we have left,” he said.

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.

 

FOCUS-Israel’s Who is a Jew controversy heats up
By Jeffrey Heller (1999)

JERUSALEM – Israel’s “Who is a Jew” war escalated on Tuesday with the passage of a religious authority law in parliament and an Orthodox chief rabbi’s perceived comparison of Reform Judaism to the Nazi Holocaust.

Pressed by religious political parties ahead of the May general election, legislators voted 50-49 to oblige Reform and Conservative members of municipal religious councils to pledge to abide by ritual rulings of the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate.

“(Parliament) is now saying that we believe, we are legislating, that Orthodox Jews are in a higher class than non-Orthodox Jews,” said Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, executive director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America.

It was not immediately clear if non-Orthodox members of the councils would sign the pledge of allegiance although several interviewed in the Israeli media said they recognised the authority of the Chief Rabbinate.

Orthodox Jewish parties flex political muscle in Israel, while an overwhelming majority of U.S. Jews belong to the Reform and Conservative movements that are trying to break the Orthodox monopoly on Israeli religious affairs.

Accusing the Israeli establishment of hypocrisy, Hirsch said it was happy to take non-Orthodox American Jews’ “first class money” and “first class political support” while relegating their religious values and institutions to second class status.

In some of the sharpest words voiced yet in the fight for the soul of the Jewish state, Chief Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi Doron suggested Reform Judaism would be responsible for the loss of more Jews to assimilation than were wiped out by the Nazis in World War Two.

Bakshi-Doron, who represents the Sephardic community of Jews with origins in North African and Arab countries, told Israel Radio on Tuesday: “A third of the people were lost in the Holocaust. “I said that today we have a problem that the people of Israel will lose more than a third in a harsh assimilation — until the end of the Jewish people.”

Bakshi-Doron accused the Reform movement of contributing to assimilation by sanctioning the marriage of Jews to non-Jews and by ignoring ritual law that a Jew be the offspring of a Jewish mother or else be converted in accordance with Orthodox practice.

The comparison, by an Orthodox Jewish religious chief, irked leaders of progressive Jewish movements and Israeli survivors of the Holocaust, in which more than six million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War Two.

Rabbi Ehud Bandel, head of the Conservative Jewish movement in Israel, said: “This is certainly incitement, nearly a call for bloodshed and such things when said by a man who bears the title ‘chief rabbi’ are no doubt desecration of God’s name.”

“We’ve been used to these comments from the chief rabbi for years,” Hirsch told Reuters. “To react to it is almost to dignify a perverse, perverted world view.”

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.

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