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Schindler Urges Shamir to Resist Aguda Pressure on Law of Return

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Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), has called on Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir of Israel “not to yield to the demand of the Aguda Party” for a change in Israel’s Law of Return that would hold invalid all conversions made by Conservative and Reform rabbis.

Schindler said in a letter to the newly-elected leader of the Herut Party, who is now seeking to form a new government to succeed Premier Menachem Begin’s, that non-Orthodox Jews “constitute the overwhelming majority of American and world Jewry. The proposed change would in effect rule us all out of the Jewish fold and would shatter that unity which is essential to our survival.”

The American Reform Jewish leader recalled that Begin, “while personally sympathetic to a more traditional point of view, nevertheless always understood that the passage of such a law would plunge the Jewish world into a kulturkampf whose only result would be national suicide.”

For this reason, Schindler continued, “as Prime Minister, Mr. Begin always insisted that this matter never be subject to party discipline. As a consequence, the effort always proved abortive. When Knesset members were permitted to vote as their conscience dictated, they rejected any change in the Law of Return. I beg you not to make Jewish unity a bargaining chip on the table of political power.”

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