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5 U.S. Orthodox Groups Protest ‘radical Desecration’ of Jerusalem

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Five major Orthodox organizations in the U.S. issued a joint statement Tuesday vigorously protesting what they called the “radical desecration” of the unique religious status of Jerusalem by the screening of films there on the Sabbath. Their statement also condemned “the action of the minuscule group of irresponsible hotheads who stoop to stone-throwing in violation of Jewish law.”

The latter reference apparently was to ultra-Orthodox residents of Jerusalem who have resorted to violence to force the closure of cinemas.

The statement was issued by the Agudath Israel of America, National Council of Young Israel, Rabbinical Council of America, Religious Zionists of America, and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

It stressed that “Respect for the Sabbath was embodied even in the non-Jewish by-laws of Jerusalem under the British mandate which forbade Sabbath desecration in public facilities of the kind now being perpetrated.”

The statement noted that “This policy was maintained as the ‘status quo’ after the formation of the State of Israel. From the inception of the State, in fact, it was well recognized by all groups in Israel from the right to the left, from the religious to the non-religious, that it was mandatory to preserve the status quo in regard to religious practices — especially as it relates to the public observance of the Sabbath, kashrut, and matters of personal status — if Israeli society was to avoid a ‘kulturkampf’ which bore the seeds of self-destruction.”

The Orthodox groups claimed that “the Friday night opening of movie theaters was initiated by a tiny group of secular extremists and commercial interests with the intent of provoking extremists on the other side in order to rally public sentiment in their favor.”

The statement emphasized, however, “that the entire Orthodox Jewish community in Israel, including all Orthodox organizations, parties and yeshivos, as well as the entire Orthodox community in the United States, are absolutely opposed to any attempts to solve public disputes through violent or illegal acts…”

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