Reform Rabbis Pledge Solidarity with Israel on Ideological and Practical Levels

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinic arm of Reform Judaism, ended its 81st annual convention and its first to be held in Israel here last night with expressions of solidarity with Israel on both ideological and practical levels. Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn, president of the CCAR, and Rabbi David Polish, vice president, declared that holding the convention in Israel represented a “turning point of immeasurable impact” for the Reform movement. Premier Golda Meir arrived at the convention soon after an uproar erupted in the Knesset when a member of the ultra-Orthodox Agudat Israel spat on a Reform prayer book and threw it to the floor. Mrs. Meir gave the impression of not being fully aware of what had transpired in the chamber and mentioned it only in passing. She appealed to the Reform rabbis for patience over the status of Reform Judaism in Israel. Mrs. Meir told them, “For me, the unity of the Jewish people precedes everybody and everything else and I am willing to make this compromise for its sake.”

Mrs. Meir also sought to convince the Reform rabbis that progress was being made in easing Orthodox rigidity. Referring to the amendment to the Law of Return just passed by the Knesset she said that only a short time ago they too would have considered impossible the passage of a measure which recognizes non-Orthodox conversions abroad. The Reform rabbis appeared to take the spitting incident with equanimity. They also accepted with good-natured tolerance a bitter attack on their movement by an Orthodox Israeli scholar, Rabbi Adin Steinsalz, editor of a new edition of the Talmud. He contended that Reform Judaism “contains all the vices of Christianity without its virtues.” A Conservative rabbi invited to speak at the convention, Jack Cohen of the Hebrew University’s B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation, contended that religion permeates life in Israel though it is not centered on the synagogue alone.

NEXT STORY