JERUSALEM (Sep. 10)
The Ethiopian Jewish immigrant community’s week-long sit-down strike outside the offices of the Chief Rabbinate Council was joined today by dozens of members of the Reform Jewish community in Israel who brought with them food, cold drinks and flowers.
Rabbi Asher Hirsch, world secretary of the Reform movement, said the fight of the Ethiopians for equal treatment as Jews was also the fight of the Reform community. The immigrants began the sit-instrike a week ago to protest the Chief Rabbinate’s insistence that they undergo ritual immersion, a religious conversion rite, before they are allowed to marry.
The Ethiopians, all devout practicing Jews, regard this demand as humiliating and insulting because it questions their authenticity as Jews. They voted yesterday to continue the strike despite appeals by Premier Shimon Peres and the Director General of the Religious Affairs Ministry to end it.
Meanwhile, they have won an order nisi from the Supreme Court requiring the Chief Rabbinate to show cause why the Ethiopian immigrants must undergo ritual conversion.
Rabbi Hirsch said, “We regard them as Jews for all intents and purposes. It was already decided they are Jews. We brought them to Israel and therefore we must treat them as full Jews.”