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Rabbinical Council Warns That Reform-conservative Israel Program Could Be Decisive

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The Rabbinical Council of America, the association of Orthodox rabbis, warned today that projected plans of American Conservative and Reform rabbis for cooperative efforts for an indigenous non-Orthodox Judaism in Israel could be dangerously divisive at a time when Israel was facing severe new trials to its physical survival.

The proposed effort by the (Reform) Central Conference of American rabbis and the (Conservative) Rabbinical Assembly emerged from a joint all-day study meeting of the boards of the rabbinic groups last Wednesday at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Conservative institution here. Rabbi Ralph Simon, president of the RA, said the objective was to provide a “third option” to Israeli Jews whose choice now is limited to Orthodox Judaism, which is the officially-supported form of Jewish practice in Israel, and secularism. A number of proposals were envisaged at the study meeting, to be carried out cooperatively by the committees on Israel of the two rabbinic groups, to strengthen present activities. Among them would be new efforts to encourage American rabbis to go to Israel and carry on programs of liberal religious thought and education among Israeli Jews. Rabbi Simon emphasized that the cooperative approach would seek to avoid any confrontations with the Israeli Government and the Orthodox rabbinate.

Rabbi Zev Segal, RA president, warned that such efforts could divide Jews both inside and outside Israel and might “destroy the unity which we so desperately need.” He urged the Reform and Conservative movements “to desist from these efforts and to concentrate instead upon stronger support for Israel’s genuine needs which are physical integrity, economic development and cultural expansion.” He added that religious diversity and conflict had been “plaguing” the American Jewish community “for years” and that “there is no justification for permitting such divisions and tensions to be imported into Israel.”

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