Religious, Secular Jews Divided over Ruling on Langer Case
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Religious, Secular Jews Divided over Ruling on Langer Case

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A new center for Conservative Judaism was inaugurated here yesterday by the World Council of Synagogues holding its ninth annual convention. Fixing a mezuzah to the building. Prof. Simon Greenberg, Vice Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America described “Conservative Jewry as a bridge between past and future.”

But the deep rifts that exist not only between religious and secular Jews but within the observant community were delineated sharply this week as the Conservative leaders met to try to establish their branch of Judaism more firmly in Israel. The rifts were dramatized by the controversy that has developed over Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren’s swift resolution of the Langer “mamzerim” case last Sunday and by the announcement by Independent Liberal Knesset member Gideon Hausner last night that he has no intention of deferring his limited civil marriages bill as requested by Rabbi Goren.

Rabbi Goren’s action which removed the taint of bastardy from Hanoch and Miriam Langer, permitting them to marry their fiances, was approved by a majority of Israelis including the more moderate members of the Orthodox establishment. But it engendered bitterness in the establishment of separate marriage registries in defiance of the Chief Rabbinate.


(Leaders of the Agudath Israel of America which opened its 50th national convention today in Atlantic City, N.J, condemned Rabbi Goren’s action. A spokesman for the group said that the “precipitous and clandestine manner in which Rabbi Goren allegedly resolved the Langer case has such serious implications that the 1000 Orthodox leaders attending the convention feel it will be necessary to review the entire status of Israel’s official rabbinate as it is presently structured.”)

Delegates to the World Council of Synagogues convention generally hailed Rabbi Goren’s move but some expressed the view that while it benefited the Langers it did not solve the basic issues arising from archaic laws and their strict interpretations which cause many Israelis personal hardships. Rabbi Bent Melchior, the Chief Rabbi of Denmark, said he was not happy with Goren’s ruling because it did not solve the overall problem of “mamzerut” (illegitimacy). But Dr. Pinhas Peli, an Israeli writer and editor who was invited to address the convention, expressed views similar to those of the ultra-Orthodox. He termed the Goren ruling a “travesty” of halacha (religious law) and contrary to its spirit.


Shlomo Lorincz, a Knesset member identified with the right-wing of the Agudat Israel Party, said his party would consider setting up its own marriage registries so that its members would not be “in danger of entering halachically forbidden marriages.” His statement followed a meeting of the Aguda central committee at which Rabbi Eliezer Shach, principal of the Ponevezh Yeshiva in B’nai B’raq, assailed Rabbi Goren for “tearing up the Torah.”

But an Aguda party spokesman said yesterday that Lorincz was not speaking for the party. He indicated that no decision had been made on separate marriages registries. Menachim Porush, another Aguda militant, charged on a television interview that Rabbi Goren had “done a dreadful thing” which would “lead inevitably to separate communities for those of us who really follow halacha.”

Premier Golda Meir’s Labor Party which maintains a coalition partnership with the Orthodox National Religious Party, indicated today that it would not support changes in the status quo between the State and religion. The decision followed a lengthy debate within the party’s central committee where some members urged the party to follow a more secular line. Premier Meir expressed the majority view that there must be “no religious or anti-religious coercion.”

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