Schindler Urges Begin to Reject Aguda Demands on Law of Return

Warning of “a serious rupture of the unity of the Jewish people,” the leader of Reform Judaism in America has called on Premier Menachem Begin to reject demands by the Aguda Israel party for amendments in the Law of Return as a condition for joining his government.

The office of Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, released today the text of a cable he had sent to Begin seeking “reassurance” that the Israeli leader would permit every member of his coalition to “vote his conscience” on the controversial issue.

Schindler’s message followed news reports that the Aguda had insisted on government support for its long-standing demand that the Law of Return be changed to deny the right of immigration to Israel for persons who had not been converted to Judaism “according to halacha.”

POSES A SERIES OF QUESTIONS

The message to Begin from Schindler, who is currently in Geneva attending meetings of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, stated, in part:

“The preponderant majority of America’s Jews are non-Orthodox. They are deeply committed Jews. They stand by Israel materially, politically. They feel bound to the Jewish people body and soul. They are determined to share our common destiny.

“By what right does anyone question their Jewish legitimacy? How can we ask them to continue to sacrifice for Israel when their children’s right to enter Eretz Israel is put to question? How can any Jewish leader after Auschwitz permit the setting up of a selection process at Jerusalem’s gates? And how will Orthodoxy be served by such a means? Does halacha really require validation by Knesset vote? Can such a vote enhance its sanctity and compelling power?”

“This is not the way. Jewish unity must never be bargained away. Please provide me with the means to restore our community’s sense of at-one-ness with the Jewish people.”

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