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Rabin: Aliya from the USSR is the ‘greatest Challenge of Our Time’

Premier Yitzhak Rabin said here last night that apart from the questions of war and peace, the prospects of massive Jewish immigration from the Soviet Union is “the greatest challenge of our time.” Rabin addressed the opening of the semi-annual Board of Trustees Study Mission of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the first such event to be held by the Reform group in Israel.

But he pointedly refused to react to the introductory remarks by UAHC president Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, who spoke bitterly of the second class status imposed on Reform rabbis in Israel where all religious matters are under the exclusive control of the Orthodox establishment.

The Premier, who is currently engaged in delicate negotiations aimed at getting the National Religious Party to join his coalition government, said he would not discuss the Who is a Jew issue because “I have enough of it.”

He said that the potential immigration from the USSR would be a challenge for both Israel and American Jewry be as well as for the immigrants themselves. “It is going to be something we have never experienced before. It will decide the future of the Jews in the USSR and might serves as a source of strength for Judaism all over the world.” he said.

RIGHTS OF REFORM JUDAISM STRESSED

Rabbi Schindler declared that inasmuch as Reform Judaism is participating fully in the life of Israel, “We expect to receive the full privileges of that participation. We reject, most utterly reject, our present status in this land. We shall fight for our rights as fully privileged citizens.” He referred to the tragedy of an Israeli Reform rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Weiler, who lost one son in the Six-Day War and another in the Yom Kippur War but is not allowed to perform the full functions of a rabbi in Israel.

Nevertheless, Rabbi Schindler said, despite misgivings about the inferior status of Reform Judaism in Israel, the Reform movement will continue to extend its full support for the State “because Israel depends on our presence as on the presence of every Jew.” The study tour, in which 60 UAHC members representing 715 synagogues in the U.S. and Canada are participating. is intended as the basis for new development plans and new projects by Reform Jews in Israel.

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