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Conservative. Reform Jewish Leaders Urge Israel Not to Revise Law of Return

Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was cautioned yesterday by the principal international and American bodies of Conservative and Reform Judaism that new attempts by the Orthodox rabbinate to revise the Law of Return, and exclude converts of non-Orthodox rabbis, could seriously jeopardize the flow of new immigrants and divide the Jewish community throughout the world. In the first statement ever to be issued jointly by these groups, they implored Israeli officials to “reject the misguided advocacy of those who seek to revise the Law of Return” and urged retention of the present form of the law.

The 400-word document was a response to new legislative proposals and newspaper campaigns, during the past few weeks, by Israel’s religious parties and Orthodox rabbinate to change the Law of Return. “The Orthodox rabbinate is motivated by concern for preserving their monopolistic control of Halacha (Jewish law) and of using the Halacha to reinforce their political power,” the Conservative and Reform groups charged. “Their intention is to exclude all converts and their progeny accepted into the Jewish people by Reform and Conservative rabbis, and even by Orthodox rabbis whose credentials are not recognized by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.”

They advised the Israeli leader, “The Jewish world cannot tolerate a paradox where persons who consider themselves Jews in every respect should discover that in fulfilling the act of aliya to Israel they are thereby disqualified from membership in the Jewish people.” It was pointed out that in the US, where non-Orthodox Jews comprise the majority, all branches of Judaism, Zionists and secular agencies work together in various umbrella agencies “on the principal of Jewish unity through mutual respect for ideological diversity.” The statement was signed by the leaders of:

World Union for Progressive Judaism, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Reform bodies, and by the World Council of Synagogues, United Synagogue of America, and Rabbinical Assembly, the Conservative bodies.

Nahal Golan, for four years a para-military outpost in the Golan Heights, officially became a civilian settlement and took the new name of Kibbutz Afik. The commander of the Nahal units, Zvi Levanon, formally turned the settlement over to Agriculture Minister Chaim Gvati. Kibbutz Afik is sponsored by the Mapai (Labor Party) kibbutz movement.

Hebrew University students who took over a university building to protest police brutality against the Black Panthers will be brought up before university authorities on charges of breaching discipline and disturbing the peace on the campus. If charges are substantiated the students may face disciplinary action ranging from a reprimand to suspension.

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