Israel’s Reform campus vandalized

JERUSALEM, July 6 (JTA) — Vandals struck the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College in Israel this week, smashing glass windows and doors and spray-painting the word “Satan” in black letters on the ground.

Thursday’s attack on the institute was the second on the HUC after a door was smashed there a few weeks ago.

It was also the fifth recent attack on a non-Orthodox institution, the most serious being the torching of a Conservative synagogue in Jerusalem last week.

“This has become a wave,” said Motti Inbari, spokesman for the Reform movement in Israel. “There is a connection between the incidents.”

Reform officials notified the police and said no suspects have yet been apprehended. However, they said, night workers on the scene said men dressed in haredi, or fervently Orthodox, garb were seen nearby before the attack.

Rabbi David Rosen, the modern Orthodox director of the Anti- Defamation League’s Israel office, said the perpetrators of recent attacks and those who agree with them must be taught “in schools and synagogues, through the media and from political and religious leaders,” that differences of opinions must be accepted in a democracy.

“These acts, which seek to curtail freedom of religious expression, undermine democratic rule,” he said.

The burning of the Ya’ar Ramot Conservative synagogue last week sparked a landmark condemnation from Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Israel’s Orthodox Ashkenazi chief rabbi.

Condemnations were also voiced from some fervently Orthodox political leaders and printed in the haredi press.

However, Reform and Conservative leaders complained that many of these statements were ambiguous. Some even accused the liberal streams of carrying out the attack on their own synagogue to gain sympathy.

Meanwhile, Aharon Barak, president of Israel’s Supreme Court, has promised a swift ruling on the legitimacy of non-Orthodox conversions in Israel.

The court on Wednesday completed its hearings — held by a special panel of 11 judges — on a list of outstanding cases.

In recent years, the court has avoided issuing rulings amid political attempts at a compromise.

If it chooses to rule now, it could create the most significant precedent ever on the conversion issue, which has been at the core of the pluralism debate and Israel-Diaspora tensions in recent years.

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