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Female Israeli Reform rabbis speak out in favor of contact with Arabs

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — Female Israeli Reform rabbis issued a letter slamming some elements of a call earlier this week for Jewish women to shun contact with Arab men.

"We, rabbis of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, oppose interfaith marriages, but we consider professional and social contacts between us and all of Israel’s citizens and residents to be positive — regardless of race, religion or sex," the new letter, dated Wednesday, read. The letter is signed by the 40 female Reform rabbis who are part of the rabbinical council of the Israel Movement for Progressive and Reform Judaism.

The letter came in response to a statement distributed earlier this week by Lehava, an organization dedicated to preventing intermarriage between Jews and Arabs, and signed by 27 Israeli rabbis’ wives that urged Jewish women not to date or work with Arab men.

Several weeks ago, several dozen Israeli municipal rabbis signed a letter calling on Jews not to sell or rent properties to non-Jews. That letter met with strong condemnation, particularly from American rabbis.

This week’s Reform letter said, "Jews who are confidant in their Jewish identity do not have to fear contact with people from other nations." It went on, "Dialogue and social contact between Jews and non-Jews are the foundations of a healthy society. The way to strengthen the Jewish identity of our sons and daughters is through education, not incitement and fear. "

The 50 male Reform rabbis who are members of the council also support the statement, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the movement, told JTA.

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