New York (Jul. 12)
Dr. Harold Jacobs, president of the National Council of Young Israel, condemned what he termed the threats by American Reform and Conservative leaders to with-hold support for Israel if the new government led by Premier Menachem Begin accedes to the requests of its religious parties coalition members “to strengthen the integrity of the Israeli religious establishment.” Jacobs termed the threats “a naked attempt at economic and political blackmail to reverse the democratic decision of the Israeli electorate expressed in the ballot box” June 30.
Jacobs refuted the charge by Dr. Gerson Cohen, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, that the religious parties’ request would be a “religious affront” to the majority of Jews by citing a recent American Jewish Committee study which found, “A growing acknowledgement among virtually all sectors of the Jewish population (of Israel) that the state cannot survive if it is not a Jewish state, and that the Jewish character of the state is preserved most fully by those recognized at the authentic guardians of Judaism, the Orthodox.”
Jacobs responded to the charge by Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, that the religious parties’ requests would “rupture the unity of the Jewish people” by pointing to the attempts of the Reform and Conservative groups to “undermine the traditionally united American Jewish support of Israel to extort by political pressure the recognition they have failed to win from the people of Israel.”
Furthermore, Jacobs said, “by rejecting the standards of Jewish law and tradition, it is the Reform and Conservative groups which have divided the Jewish people and caused needless human suffering through invalid conversion, marriage and divorce procedures which have thrown a shadow over the Jewish identity and marital status of thousands of innocent men and women. It is to avoid further damage and human suffering of this kind that we must reject Reform and Conservative demands for official religious recognition in Israel.”