Israeli Conservative Rabbi Warns Orthodox Extremists

A leader of the Conservative movement in Israel warned here today that if “exteme elements” of Orthodox Jewry in Israel will continue to harass the Conservative movement “then we will urge American Jews not to assist them anymore.”

Rabbi Philip Spectre, the executive director of the Movement for Conservative Judaism in Israel, charged in a press conference at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, that a recent incident in Kiryat Gat, a town in the south of Israel, in which Lubavitcher Hasidim disturbed a bar and bat mitzva celebration by the Conservative movement, has made the leadership of Conservative Judaism in Israel determined “not to let this continue.”

The incident with the Lubavitcher Hasidim took place at the beginning of last month, Spectre said. He said that when the ceremony was about to start “there appeared at the door a group of Lubavitcher Hasidim who asked permission to join in the proceedings. They were welcomed and each young Hasid picked up one of the children and danced with them, joyfully, as befit the occasion. But,” Spectre continued, “just at the moment for the closing blessings, Rabbi Wolpe, leader of the Hasidic group, requested permission to address the congregation.” He then told the children and parents “that they had been misled, that their celebration had been unauthentic, that Jewish law did not permit calling women to the Torah and so forth,” Spectre said.

Spectre said that when reports of the incident reached the leaders of Conservative Judaism in both Israel and North America “the response was traumatic,” as it was on the children and the parents in Kiryat Gat.

NO PROBLEM WITH ‘ENLIGHTENED’ ORTHODOX

Spectre said that his movement, which has about 10,000 registered members in Israel “has no problem with enlightened Orthodox Jews in Israel but with the less enlightened such as the Lubavitcher Hasidim.” He said that the Conservative movement is gaining inroads in Israel. “We want to achieve reciprocal respect with Orthodox Jews in Israel and elsewhere,” he said.

He said that the budget of the Conservative movement in Israel “is 50 percent from American sources and the rest from our membership in Israel.” He pointed out that “official Judaism in Israel is Orthodox Judaism” and other brands of Judaism, therefore, are not supported by the government.

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