September 6, 2017 — New York, New York
AJC deplores Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar’s incendiary attack on Reform Jews, saying they “deny more than Holocaust deniers.” Amar, who has previously denigrated Reform Judaism, was one of the leading Haredi rabbis who denounced the historic Western Wall (Kotel) compromise achieved in January 2016, and frozen by the Israeli government earlier this summer.
Amar’s comments, revealed today, were made last week in in response to last week’s Israeli Supreme Court hearing, in which the Court decided that the government must either reinstate the Kotel agreement or explain why it should not force the state to honor the agreement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Rabbi Amar’s comments. “All Jews are part of one family and the diversity of our people should always be respected,” said Netanyahu. “I categorically reject any attempt to delegitimize any part of the Jewish people.”
“Rabbi Amar’s vitriol against liberal expressions of Judaism in Israel only will distance Diaspora Jewry from Israel and weaken both the U.S.-Israel relationship and the unity of Jewish peoplehood around the world,” said Steven Bayme, AJC Director of Contemporary Jewish Life. “Rabbi Amar may disagree with Reform Judaism theologically, but his comparison of Reform Jews intent on worshiping at the Wall with Holocaust deniers is a perversion of both truth and traditional Jewish values of love for the entire Jewish people.”
AJC hailed the compromise to allow egalitarian prayer at the sacred site in Jerusalem when it was first approved by the Israeli Cabinet in January 2016. AJC has been focusing on issues of Jewish religious pluralism in Israel for decades. At AJC’s initiative, the effort was elevated in 2014 with the establishment of the multi-organizational Jewish Religious Equality Coalition (J-REC) to press for recognized alternatives to the Chief Rabbinate on procedures relating to marriage and conversion to Judaism.
“The Western Wall is an historic shrine that belongs to the entire Jewish people. Defining it as an Orthodox synagogue alienates Reform and Conservative Jews from Israel as a Jewish state,” said Bayme.
Photo source: By Daniel Majewski (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons