Religious Party Threatens Israel Cabinet Crisis over Reform Issue
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Religious Party Threatens Israel Cabinet Crisis over Reform Issue

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A cabinet crisis may develop in Israel if the ban by the B’nai B’rith here, and by the ZOA House, on Reform religious services in their premises will be brought for debate in the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, the National Religious Party warned today.

The religious party threatened to withdraw from the coalition Government–which is only two weeks old — if members of other parties in the Cabinet are allowed to introduce into the Knesset agenda a motion requesting a discussion on the ban. Shulamit Aloni, an Alignment member of the Knesset, indicated today that she intends to request such a debate. Emma Talmi, a Mapam deputy in the Knesset, simultaneously stated that she will request a Knesset debate on the Israel rabbinate’s stand on a recent marriage of a Karaite to a Jewish girl.

Religious Affairs Minister Zorah Warhaftig, a leader of the National Religious Party, said today that these issues should be held inside the coalition and should not be introduced in the Knesset. The coalition presidium is expected to meet shortly on these sensitive issues.


Meanwhile, B’nai B’rith lodges in other cities in Israel, outside Tel Aviv, today demanded discussion of the refusal by the Tel Aviv administration of the local B’nai B’rith building to permit Reform services in the building. At the same time, Ben-Zion Kanders, president of the B’nai B’rith here, issued a statement reiterating that the organization decided not to permit Reform services in its building. (In Washington, the world headquarters of B’nai B’rith said today it has so far received no reply from Israel to a cable inquiring for details on the issue.)

A spokesman for ZOA House here confirmed that the management of the building, established by the Zionist Organization of America, had turned down a request for the holding of Reform services on its premises. He said that the ZOA House had been created as a cultural center and had not been intended to serve as a synagogue.

Noting that the ZOA had members from all three branches of Judaism, the ZOA spokesman said that the organization would not take any position favoring any one branch. He stressed that the ban on services was not directed specifically against the Reform religious movement.

A leader of the Reform movement said that the reason ZOA House had banned Reform services is because the management of ZOA House fears it may lose its kashruth certificate from the Israel Chief Rabbinate. Such loss, it was alleged, would deprive the ZOA House of income from weddings and banquets.

Sources in the Religious Affairs Ministry, controlled by the Orthodox movement, were quoted today as saying that Reform and other Jewish congregations needing financial help to build or acquire their own places of worship could get such aid from the Ministry of the Interior, in the same way that Orthodox congregations get such aid. However, Reform leaders replied that none of the Reform congregations in Israel ever got “a single thing from the Ministry for Religious Affairs.”

At Ashkelon, where the new Conservative congregation was denied room for services at the WIZO headquarters there, it was said today that Conservative worshipers plan to hold outdoor Sabbath services next weekend.

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