Stormy Session at Mizrachi Convention

The 22nd World Conference of the Mizrachi-Hapoel Hamizrachi proceeded quietly today after a stormy opening session yesterday punctuated by bitter floor fights and an ideological debate. The topics under discussion this morning were the problems of religious education in Israel and the diaspora.

The election of a presidium and convention committees was not completed until late last night due to factional disputes. The 500 delegates finally agreed to apportion membership in the presidium on the basis of nationality. Israel was given 40 percent of the seats. America 30 percent and all others 30 percent.

Yesterday’s debate reflected the sharp differences within the Religious Zionist Movement. Rabbi Samuel Sperber, a veteran Mizrachi ideologue, called on the National Religious Party to “set a limit” on its continued participation in Israel’s coalition government. Hecklers shouted, “What limit?” Sperber replied that it was for the party to decide. But he said, the Movement must fight for “Medinat Hatora” (Torah State) instead of “Medinat Heterim” (a state of compromise).

Moshe Unna, a spokesman for what in the context of Orthodoxy is the “left-wing,” said that while the identity of Jewish religion and Jewish nationality could, not be separated, it was also a basic problem which could not be ignored. He urged that this identity be used to guard the Jewish character of Israel rather than in the conquest and subjugation of other peoples.

Rabbi Bernard Bergmann, an American Mizrachi leader, urged a dialogue with the Orthodox right-wing and warned of dangers from the “left.” Dayan Michael Fisher of London, took Israeli rabbis to task for publishing halachic rulings and the reasoning that led up to them. He contended that these subjects should be left to the experts, not to newspaper readers. He was referring to the publication of Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren’s controversial ruling in the Langer case.

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