JERUSALEM (Jul. 21)
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres castigated some 500 Orthodox rabbis from 30 countries for opposing equal rights for Reform and Conservative Jews, and for creating a rift in the Jewish people.
He also tried to convince them that peace with the Arabs is worth territorial compromise.
Peres, leader of the Labor Party, addressed the meeting of the World Conference of Rabbis and Community Leaders. It is composed of Orthodox Jewish clergy and lay leaders from North and South America, South Africa, Europe and Israel.
The foreign minister was genuinely angered when an Israeli rabbi asked him how he intended to stop the Reform and Conservative branches of Judaism from “undermining the Jewish people.”
Castigating the Orthodox for creating a rift, Peres declared, “I won’t let the Jewish people be split because of your intolerance.”
He vowed to “do everything” to prevent war between the different streams of Judaism, and that he would do it “with or without your help.”
Peres urged the assembled rabbis from overseas not to become involved in Israel’s internal political struggles.
He said that on political matters, the rabbis spoke with no greater authority than anyone else.