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Orthodox Group Urges Shamir to Stop ‘who is a Jew’ Drive

Reform, Conservative and secular opponents of the proposed “Who Is a Jew” amendment to Israel’s Law of Return gained an ally this week in the Rabbinical Council of America, which represents a majority of the Orthodox congregational rabbis in the United States.

In a cable sent to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, the RCA said it supports “removal of this issue from the political agenda” in order to “help preserve the unity and support of the American Jewish community with and for Israel.”

Rabbi Max Schreier, president of the RCA, and Rabbi Binyamin Walfish, executive vice president, said the laws of conversion to Judaism, the central issue of the legislation, belong “in the hands of the Chief Rabbinate and not in the secular Knesset.”

In bucking Israel’s Orthodox religious parties, who are pushing for passage of the legislation, the RCA has diverged from two other major American Orthodox groups, the Agudath Israel of America and the Chabad Lubavitch movement.

The leader of the Brooklyn-based Chabad Hasidim, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, has been a vigorous proponet of the “Who is a Jew” legislation, which would prevent non-Orthodox converts to Judaism from being eligible for automatic Israeli citizenship.

Its passage is the price being demanded by the Orthodox parties, led by the Chabad-backed Agudat Yisrael, for their participation in the next Israeli government.

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