Over 100 rabbis participated Tuesday in an "emergency gathering" following the State\’s decision to recognize rabbis of Conservative and Reform movements as official rabbis and give them the same funding as Orthodox rabbis, who are appointed by the Chief Rabbinate.
The gathering was called by Israel\’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who received Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef\’s support.
In addition to Israel\’s Chief Rabbis Amar and Yona Metzger, hundreds of rabbis from the Religious-Zionist movement, Ministers Yakov Margi and Ariel Atias and MK\’s Uri Arieli and Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), attended the gathering in effort to protest the government\’s decision which received the High Court\’s seal of approval.
Amar claimed that the Reform and Conservative rabbis are "battling all that is holy. They are trying to the uproot the foundation of Judaism," he exclaimed, adding that "this is an attempt to tear the Jewish people into two nations .It\’s a danger without a remedy." He added that people should pray on this matter as they do in times of war, when "rockets are fired at Israel."
The chief rabbi called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do all he possibly can to prevent the State\’s recognizing and funding of non-Orthodox rabbis.
Rabbi Metzger claimed that a mere 10% of third generation Reform Jews remain Jewish – a figure, he claimed, proves that "their way is not the right way."
\’A danger without a remedy\’
Dozens of Conservative and Reform rabbis staged a counter demonstration outside the Chief Rabbinate building in Jerusalem, demanding the state implement the recent ruling on state funding for non-Orthodox rabbis. They further said that "it is the will of thousands of Israelis to have the option of receiving religious services from non-Orthodox rabbis."
In response to the "emergency meeting," the head of Israel\’s Reform Judaism movement Rabbi Gilad Kariv said that "the hatred and incitement which were displayed during the convention will not stop the non-Orthodox movements from flourishing."
"On the contrary, he said, adding that "a convention of this sort just reminds the Israeli public of the Chief Rabbinate\’s extremism, and the absolute need for a functioning, honest and welcoming form of Judaism."
"If rabbi Amar and his friends continue on this inciting path, we will continue to build communities, build educational institutions and help with the conversion of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Most importantly, we will work towards social justice and tolerance," Kariv said.
President of the Israeli Conservative Movement Rabbinical Assembly Rabbi Mauricio Balter said that "Rabbi Amar\’s hurtful and harsh words against Reform and Conservative rabbis are inciting and this unprecedented gathering goes against the High Court\’s ruling. We will not keep quiet, while rabbis are being humiliated."
"We would like to remind these rabbis that the Torah commands us to \’love your neighbor as yourself."
Prior to the meeting, Amar sent out a letter addressed to hundreds of rabbis in Israel, calling on them to join the struggle. In his letter, the chief rabbi urged the rabbis to pray "in order to stop the destroyers and saboteurs of Judaism."
In response to Amar\’s harsh letter, Rabbi Balter and Conservative Rabbi Avinoam Sharon, filed a complaint with the police against him, claiming he incited against them and slandered them in the letter.
According to them, the letter he distributed and was directed against them can "arouse strife and animosity between different sectors of the population, which is considered mutiny according to Article 136/4 of the Penal Code.
"I was shocked by the way in which I was dishonored and humiliated in public, turning me into an object of hate and disdain," said Sharon, who is subscribed to the Rabbinate\’s mailing list and received a copy of the letter against him.
"Rabbi Amar describes in the letter how me and my colleagues trample the Torah, eradicate Judaism, destroy the religion and are responsible for the devastation of the people of Israel – all with the aim of harming the sanctity of the Torah."