Conservative Leaders Denounce Rabbinate Ruling on Youth Hostel

Leaders of Conservative Jewry’s North American congregational body, responding angrily to the Jerusalem rabbinate’s decision withdrawing kosher certification of a youth hostel run by the movement, have repeated the threat of a court case to resolve the issue.

“We are prepared to resort to the courts for relief and protection from this tyranny that is unfair, unreasonable and immoral,” Franklin Kreutzer, president of the United Synagogue of America, said in a statement released Tuesday.

“Issues of politics, not piety, are controlling the Jerusalem rabbinate,” Kreutzer said. “The Conservative movement will not accept second-class citizenship in Israel.”

Rabbi Jerome Epstein, chief executive officer and senior vice president of the United Synagogue, called the rabbinate’s decision “a dramatic example of ‘sinat chinam’–causeless hatred, the sin for which the rabbis of the Talmud tell us that Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed.”

The Jerusalem rabbinate ruled last week not to renew the kosher certification of the popular Bernstein Youth Hostel, located at 2 Agron Street, apparently because of its affiliation with the Conservative movement. Israel’s religious establishment does not recognize non-Orthodox Jewish movements.

Rabbinate spokesmen likened the hostel to a “monastery,” and labeled it a place which “destroys the Jewish religion.” The Conservative movement in Israel said it will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Epstein said the hostel will continue to serve kosher food “of the highest quality,” and will host 500 members of the movement’s United Synagogue Youth organization this summer. Plans are under way to acquire land to build an additional hostel in Israel.

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