U.S. Orthodox Convention Explains Limitation of Rights for Reform Pabbis in Israel

The Rabbinical Council of America, organization of Orthodox rabbis, at its 14th annual convention here, took issue today with a statement made at the conference of Reform rabbis last week in Cincinnati to the effect that Liberal rabbis are being denied religious equality in Israel. The statement in Cincinnati was made by Dr. Jacob Marcus in his presidential report to the Reform rabbis gathered there.

Dr. Marcus claimed that “Liberal rabbis, with one exception, are not permitted in Israel to preside at marriages, divorces, or to perform other functions which are denied no other group, Jewish or Gentile, in the Jewish state.” If such a condition existed in the United States, he added, American rabbis would strongly protest this discrimination.

In taking issue with this report, the convention of the Rabbinical Council of America today made public a statement by a delegation of Orthodox rabbis which had been sent by the Council to Israel to study religious affairs there. Declaring that the report made by Dr. Marcus in Cincinnati before the convention of Reform rabbis “gives an incorrect impression on the status of religious authority in the Holy Land,” the statement of the Orthodox delegation says:

“Having personally discussed this matter with officers of the Ministry of Religion during our recent visit to Israel, we learned that all rabbis who meet the qualifications required by members of the rabbinate in Israel and possess the degree of ‘Smicha’ in Israel which is awarded upon the completion of a course of study of biblical and rabbinic law–all such rabbis are granted the full rights and privileges by the Ministry of Religion.

“It is therefore not a question of discrimination but that of meeting the standards which have prevailed in Palestine since time immemorial. The laws in Israel on this question are similar to the laws governing legal and medical standars set by the various states in the U.S. before licenses to practice are granted,” the statement emphasized.

Delegates attending the closing session of the convention elected Rabbi Samuel Berliant, of New York, as president. Earlier, Chief Rabbi Louis Rabinowitz of South Africa lauded the efforts taken in the U.S. toward expansion of Jewish educational Programs. Dr. Rabinowitz, however, sharply criticized the “lack of progress and retrogression in synagogue participation and religious activity in America.”

A resolution adopted by the convention urged the United Jewish Appeal to make a special allocation for the Mizrachi and Hapoel Hamizrachi institution in Israel known as Merkaz Olami, for the purpose of providing funds for schools and children’s centers in the Jewish state. The convention also called on the United Palestine. Appeal to grant larger sums to Mizrachi programs in Israel in view of the increased immigration of religious elements.

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