The head of the Reform movement has sharply criticized remarks by an official of Israel’s Orthodox chief rabbinate, who this week termed Reform “a separate religion” from Judaism.
Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, head of the rabbinate’s conversions department, reportedly said, “Maybe it’s Judaism, but a separate kind of Judaism.”
Rosen has proposed that Reform Jews in Israel be legally placed in the same category as Christian, Druse and Muslims.
Each of those faiths has its own religious leadership – recognized as valid under Israeli law – which oversees all matters of personal status, including conversion, marriage and divorce.
The Reform movement has spearheaded the drive for the recognition and rights of non-Orthodox Jews in Israel.
Rosen reportedly made the proposal as part of an internal working document within the National Religious Party, which is Orthodox.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president-elect of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, responded sharply.
“No petty comment by a functionary of the chief rabbinate will divide us from the Jewish people,” he said.
“We have no need for approval by Rosen or anyone else in the chief rabbinate,” he said.
In another salvo in the ongoing battle between Orthodox and non-Orthodox leadership over the matter of religious pluralism in Israel, Yoffie also called for the Israeli government to dismantle the office of the chief rabbinate.
“The chief rabbinate is a foreign implant established by the British [in pre- state days] to gain greater control over the Jewish population,” Yoffie said.
It is now part of “a corrupt political and religious bureaucracy.”
“The chief rabbinate has no legitimacy, no religious standing” in Israel, he said.
“Have the truly distinguished rabbinical leaders of Israel in recent years served as chief rabbis? No. Because it’s all a corrupt political process.
“In fact it’s an obstacle to the embrace of Torah and the emergent spirituality which we would hope to see in the Jewish state.”