(JTA) — Israeli Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, who criticized Education Minister Naftali Bennett for visiting an American Conservative Jewish school, visited a similar school himself six weeks ago.
During a visit to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 21, Lau visited the communal Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital, where he met with a coed classroom, including at least one girl wearing a kippah.
Similar to Conservative Jewish day schools, girls as well as boys at the Washington school lead prayers, study Jewish texts together and read publicly from the Torah. The school was originally housed in a Conservative synagogue.
On Wednesday, Lau told the haredi Orthodox Kol Hai radio station that Bennett, chair of the religious Zionist Jewish Home party and a modern Orthodox Jew, should have conferred with an Orthodox rabbi about visiting a Conservative Solomon Schechter school in New York. Lau called the Dec. 1 trip to the school “unacceptable.”
“When you go to a specific place and recognize a specific community, if it’s a community that creates distance from the Jewish people, I don’t see how you can consider that,” Lau said. “You cannot go to a place where the education distances Jews not only from the tradition, but also from the past, and therefore from the future of the Jewish people.'”
In response to Lau’s comments, the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly issued a statement praising Bennett’s visit and encouraging Lau to follow his example.
“Rabbi Lau should follow in Minister Bennett’s footsteps and visit more such schools rather than criticizing others for doing so,” the statement said. “As Rabbi Lau speaks out on threats to the Jewish future, he must first look at how his ignorant and narrow-minded remarks such as these are alienating young Jews in the Diaspora.”