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Orthodox Rabbinate in Israel Assailed by U.S. Reform Leader

A leader of Reform Judaism in the U.S. charged here Thursday that the Orthodox Rabbinate in Israel is alienating scores of thousands of Israelis from Jewish observances and traditions by its arbitrary and authoritarian actions.

Charles Rothschild, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), told a press conference that a delegation of Reform rabbis now visiting Israel has been meeting with Israeli leaders to protest against the religious establishment’s hostile treatment of the Progressive Jewish movement here, especially its refusal to register Reform converts as Jews and the denial to Reform rabbis the right to serve in personal matters.

“We were received in a civil manner, but we were disappointed by the replies we received,” Rothschild said, noting that the Progressive movement, linked to the Reform congregations in America, has only 17 synagogues in Israel catering for 1,500 families.

The visit by the Reform leaders, an outgrowth of the semi-annual meeting of the UAHC Board held in St. Louis, Mo. earlier this month, has on its agenda a demand for equal rights for Reform rabbis and Reform Jews in Israel.

Rothschild charged that “Tens of thousands of Israelis, young and old, have been repelled from the Jewish tradition by the political manipulations and power plays of an Orthodox Rabbinate that is interested not in the spirit and essence of our faith but in control of it.”

He noted that the UAHC represents over 800 congregations in the U.S. with a combined membership of more than 1.5 million, making it the largest organized Jewish body in America.

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