Orthodox rabbis join effort to aid vandalized synagogues

NEW YORK, Oct. 21 (JTA) – The 800 members of all religious stripes on the New York Board of Rabbis are contributing money to two synagogues in Israel – one Reform, the other Conservative – which were attacked during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Reform Har-El Congregation in Jerusalem, and Hod V’Hadar Synagogue, a Conservative congregation in the Tel Aviv suburb of Kfar Saba, are each receiving $1,800 from the New York group, which also urged the Israeli authorities “to vigorously pursue the perpetrators of these crimes.” The money was presented Tuesday to the Israeli consul general in New York, Shmuel Sisso. Most notably, the contributions are coming, in part, from Orthodox rabbis in an era when prominent Orthodox rabbis in the United States and Israel publicly condemn Reform and Conservative Judaism as illegitimate, and as Orthodox participation in boards of rabbis around the country is fast diminishing. Orthodox rabbis constitute more than one-quarter of the New York board’s membership. “There are issues where we do have our religious differences, but there are issues which transcend religious and theological issues, and one is the desecration of houses of worship,” said Rabbi Marc Schneier, a vice president of the New York board and chairman of its From the Ashes Fund, which made the contributions. “When it comes to acts of religious hatred, they cannot be tolerated. On this issue, there is consensus and unity,” said Schneier, himself an Orthodox rabbi. Vandals attacked the Conservative synagogue after Kol Nidre services on Oct. 10, shattering the glass door and removing a mezuzah. The Reform congregation in Jerusalem was also attacked by vandals, who painted swastikas and graffiti on its walls. The board founded the From the Ashes Fund last year to assist African American churches around the country damaged by arson fires. The board, through the fund, also made a contribution last year to an Orthodox synagogue in Queens, N.Y., which had been vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti.

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