Conservative leader slams Israeli rabbi


The leader of the Conservative movement’s synagogue arm blasted remarks by a former Israeli chief rabbi.

Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, assailed Rabbi Ovadia Yosef for suggesting in a recent sermon that soldiers killed in last summer’s Lebanon war died because they were not religious.

“God does not cause bad things to happen only to bad people and good things only to good ones,” Epstein wrote in an open letter to Yosef, the former chief Sephardic rabbi. “Nor do I accept your implication that the soldiers who fell in the defense of the Jewish state but might not have lived as you would have chosen are anything other than heroes.”

Yosef, the spiritual leader of the religious Shas party, was condemned for his remarks by numerous Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

In his weekly sermon Saturday night, Yosef said, “Is it a wonder that soldiers who don’t observe the Torah, don’t pray every day and don’t put on tefillin every day are killed in war? It is no wonder.”

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