Seven Diaspora Jewish Leaders Urge Shamir and Likud to Refrain from Ameding the Law of Return

Seven diaspora Jewish leaders, including the heads of the major fund-raising organizations in the U.S. and Canada, have urged Premier Yitzhak Shamir of Israel and his Likud Party to abandon their efforts to amend the Law of Return in a manner which would define Jews according to strict Orthodox tenets.

Two amendments sponsored by the ultra-Orthodox parties with Likud backing were defeated in the Knesset a week ago. Another vote on the controversial “Who is a Jew?” amendment is scheduled for next Wednesday.

The Jewish leaders sent a cable to Shamir warning that the proposed change would “irreparably damage the support of Israel and its institutions by diaspora Jews” and cause “a terrible rift” among the Jewish people.

The signatories were Jerold Hoffberger, chairman of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel; Max Fisher, founding chairman of the Board of Governors; Henry Taub, chairman of the United Israel Appeal; Martin Levine, president of the United Israel Appeal of Canada; Martin Stein, national chairman of the UJA; Shoshana Cardin, president of the Council of Jewish Federations; and Alex Grass, chairman of the Board of the UJA.

STATEMENT BY JEWISH LEADERS

The cable stated: “We are extremely concerned along with many Jews in the diaspora, about the repeated attempts to change the Law of Return in the Knesset, which we believe are the result of internal coalition problems in Israel. We urge you, as we have done in the past, to prevent a terrible rift in the Jewish people, which would result by amending the Law of Return.

“We further appeal to you and your colleagues in the Likud to consider the extremely negative effects of altering the delicate status quo on the ‘Who is a Jew?’ issue. This will irreparably damage the support of Israel and its institutions by diaspora Jews who will feel shut out and delegitimized. We call upon you to help preserve the unity of Klal Yisroel, as you indicated in your speech to us in the Knesset three weeks ago.”

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