Orthodox Leader Says Peres Supports Religious Status Quo

The president of Agudath Israel of America came out of his meeting with Shimon Peres last week pleased with what the prime minister told him about the future of religious pluralism in the Jewish state.

Rabbi Moshe Sherer said Peres told the delegation of leaders from the Agudath Israel World Organization “the he will work with all his strength to maintain the religious status quo that has been at the very foundation of keeping the Jewish nation from being split into two parts.”

During the Jan. 23 meeting, Peres “pointed out that, regretfully, Israel’s Supreme Court has made certain legal decisions which are creating serious problems in this area,” added Sherer.

In November, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the Ministry of the Interior could no longer refuse to register someone as a Jew because she or he was converted by a non-Orthodox religious court.

The court asked the Knesset to take up the task of legislating whether non- Orthodox rabbis in Israel could legally perform conversions to Judaism within six months.

In the meantime, rabbis on both sides of the religious pluralism issue are walking away from their meetings with Peres thinking that he is on their side of the battle.

Peres told a delegation of Reform rabbis, who met with him a week earlier, that he would establish a committee to mediate issues related to the conflict over religious pluralism, though he did not provide any details about the structure of the committee or when it would be launched.

“All of this is in the context of an election campaign this year,” said Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, executive director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America, the group spearheading the campaign for religious pluralism.

“The prime minister feels he needs the support of a significant segment of the Orthodox community and so is saying these things,” he said.

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