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RA President Raps the ‘mixing of Politics and Religion’ in Israel

The head of the world’s Conservative rabbinate today assailed the “mixing of politics and religion” in Israel, called for an end to the practice of “politicizing theology” and “theologizing politics,” and questioned the “theological rationale” of the Gush Emunim for creating settlements on the West Bank for ideological rather than security considerations, thereby causing “great divisions in the Jewish world.”

Rabbi Soul Teplitz, in his presidential address to the 80th annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly at the Concord Hotel here, was also critical of the Israel Labor Party “for joining hands with the National Religious Party to pass a law in the Knesset that transferred the authority to decide who can perform Jewish marriages from the Minister of Religious Affairs to the Chief Rabbinate.”

This, Teplitz charged, would “further delegitimize” the Conservative rabbis in Israel who are kept from performing many of the normal functions of the rabbinate by the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate. He was “particularly critical of the Labor Party, the opposition party in the Knesset, which had hitherto spoken of religious democracy and equality in Israel” but which had joined with the NRP “in the passage of the bill in exchange for other favors in the political maneuvering.”

Teplitz, who was making his final report to the RA as president, his two-year tenure coming to an end with the closing of the convention tomorrow, severely criticized the Gush Emunim for “dividing the Jewish world” with its settlements and pressure for settlements, in the occupied territories.

“We would all understand the import of the settlements,” he told the more than 600 rabbis, “if it were established that they were needed for Israel’s security, but we have difficulty in defending the theological rationale” of that small group. I would urge that we marshall our forces against politicizing theology and theologizing politics. I object to the power of the State being used to enforce religious interests or when religious forces are used to enshrine the authority of the State.

“Neither religion nor politics should be enlisted for the advantage of the other. Everyone should have the right to practice religion without the interference of government, and the right of citizenship unencumbered by the pressure of religious domination.”

ISRAEL SHOULD ENCOURAGE CREATIVE JUDAISM

Teplitz declared that he “looked for the day when the State of Israel would encourage creative Judaism in all its manifestations equally, and establish conditions whereby all Jews can establish and maintain their own institutions in accordance with the dictates of their own beliefs, without discrimination.”

He called on his colleagues in the Rabbinical Assembly to “throw our strength and influence” behind the M’ sorati Movement in Israel, the organization of Conservative Judaism there. He pointed out that the members of the Conservative congregations are in the forefront of philanthropic support of Israel and suggested that “our own institutions cannot be allowed to wither” for lack of financial support.

Teplitz noted that the 13th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem was being marked today and declared that the members of the Rabbinical Assembly state again, as they do constantly, the words of Isaiah (62:1): “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will speak out.”

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