NEW YORK (Mar. 9)
B’nai B’rith acted today to resolve the controversy over the use of the B’nai B’rith building in Tel Aviv for non-Orthodox religious purposes. The B’nai B’rith International Council, at its executive committee meetings here, asked that the 11-member management board of the building maintain “in practice” the organization’s traditional acceptance of all religious options in Judaism.
The action was taken in a resolution that reaffirmed B’nai B’rith’s “historic commitment to the principles of freedom of religion and religious equality. ” The resolution also noted “with approval” the Israel Cabinet’s unanimous declaration last month that “every person in Israel is entitled to pray wherever he wishes and in the manner he wishes. ” The B’nai B’rith Council viewed the Cabinet’s statement as a “positive development” growing out of the controversy.
The is sue erupted in late January when the organizers of Tel Aviv’s first Reform congregation complained publicly that their request to rent the building’s facilities for regular Sabbath worship had been turned down. The congregation had held its first Sabbath service in the building.
Dr. William A, Wexler, president of B’nai B’rith, disclosed that “the building manager, unmindful of a house rule which precluded its use for Sabbath worship, had accepted the Reform congregation’s request for a one-time Friday evening rental. The house rule, ” he said, “had been instituted following use of the building for services by an Orthodox group, It was then determined that the building, neither designed nor intended for use as a synagogue or temple, was not practicable for worship service in terms of facilities and staff. “
During the International Council’s discussion, a question was raised whether the building is at present open to Reform, Conservative or Orthodox groups for meetings, lectures and other cultural programs, “Absolutely, ” Dr. Wexler replied; “This has been the operational policy since the building was opened. “