Agudath Israel Asks Israel’s Leaders to Halt Coercive Pressure Tactics Against Torah Law

The Israel government was asked by an emergency meeting of the executive committee of Agudath Israel of America to “half its pressure tactics to attempt to coerce the Israeli rabbinate to compromise Torah law on conversion and personal marital status.” The call related to the ongoing controversy in Israel over the rabbinate’s insistence upon strict adherence to Torah law (halacha) in conversions to the Jewish faith and in the marital status of its citizens. The call, which was issued over the signature of the chairman of Agudath Israel’s executive committee, Rabbi Moshe Horowitz, declared: “Events in Israel during the past few weeks have pointed to an unprecedented campaign being waged by many people, including members of the Cabinet, against Torah standards for Halachic conversion and personal marital status. These eternal laws of unchanging relevance, are being challenged with coercive demands for modification and amendment to suit the wishes of secularist elements.” The call warned that “these accusations of ‘clerical brutality and inhumaneness,’ hurled at rabbinical decisions based on Halacha, can only serve to cause division and strife at a time of crisis when national unity is of paramount importance.”

At no time or place in history has any political or administrative group attempted to dictate to a rabbinical court regarding its Halachic decision, it continued. Yet today, when the rabbinic courts have found the procedures of the conversions that have taken place in Vienna “deficient from a Halachic standpoint, government leaders are demanding a policy of ‘leniency’ and ‘compromise’ to facilitate aliya.” Some religious Jews are reluctant to object openly to these pressures to give “Jewish status” to non-Jews, the call noted, because they feel that “publicly challenging any Israel government policies at this time could harm the current security needs of the State. On the contrary, our objections to tampering with Torah law are a call to fortify the security and unity of our people.” They concluded with an expression of hope “that the leaders of the State of Israel will come to the realization that their belligerency to religion has gone beyond reason and their pressure against those who uphold the integrity and sanctity of Halacha threatens the very unity of our nation. We cannot tolerate any attempt to defile our eternal Torah laws, without which there can be no existence for our people.”

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