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First Israeli Conservative Rabbis Ordained in Mt. Scopus Ceremony

The first four Israelis to become Conservative rabbis were ordained Tuesday at ceremonies on Mount Scopus.

The occasion was the highlight of a week of solemnities and festivities surrounding the meetings here of the principal institutions of the worldwide Conservative movement.

More than 1,000 people, Israelis and guests from overseas, packed the Mount Scopus amphitheater to hear Chancellor Ismar Schorsch of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York pronounce the young Israelis rabbis.

Ehud Bandel, Shlomo Fox, David Levine and Shmuel Shaish comprise the first graduating class of the Seminary of Judaic Studies at Neve Schechter here.

Neve Schechter is an independent institution of higher learning affiliated with the Masorti movement for Conservative Judaism in Israel and linked to JTS in New York. It offers a four-year course leading to ordination.

Levine is the son of Lee Levine, dean and director of the seminary and a professor of archaeology at the Hebrew University.

The Israeli government was represented at the ordination by Education Minister Yitzhak Navon, a former president of Israel.

Conservative Judaism is determined to establish itself in Israel and to win the same rights enjoyed by the Orthodox religious establishment.

ABOLITION OF CHIEF RABBINATE URGED

Concurrent with the Masorti movement meeting, the Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinical branch of Conservative Judaism in the United States, is holding its 88th annual conference in Jerusalem.

It overwhelmingly adopted a resolution Tuesday calling on the Knesset to abolish the office of chief rabbi. Doing so would eliminate exclusive Orthodox control over the religious courts, religious councils, educational programs and almost every aspect of family life in Israel.

The resolution, drafted by representatives of the 130 Conservative rabbis practicing in Israel, noted that “the Chief Rabbinate is not based on Jewish tradition.”

It charged the office with monopolizing religious life in the country, leading to injustices. “We call on the Knesset to dismantle” it at “the earliest possible moment,” the resolution said.

Members of the assembly said they would launch an intensive educational and public relations campaign in Israel to persuade the Knesset to adopt such legislation.

The delegates heard Foreign Minister Shimon Peres pledge here Monday night that the Labor Party will not support attempts to rewrite the Law of Return to relegate non-Orthodox rabbis to second class status.

“Our party is not an organization of halacha,” Peres declared. “There is no Jew who can exclude another Jew from Jewish life.” He added, “Each of us has the right to pray directly to the Lord.”

The United Synagogue of America, the lay branch of Conservative Judaism, is also meeting in Jerusalem this week.

Its 60 delegates endorsed a petition to the Supreme Court by its Israeli branch to force the Jerusalem Religious Council to restore the Kashrut certificate arbitrarily revoked from a youth hostel in Jerusalem.

The synagogue movement maintains the certificate was revoked only because the hostel is affiliated with the Conservative branch.

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