JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli lawmaker David Rotem apologized for comments attributed to him that members of the Reform movement are not Jewish, saying his words were “misinterpreted.”
“Comments attributed to me regarding the Reform Movement have been misinterpreted by elements within the media. I have never said belonging to the Reform Movement makes anyone less Jewish,” Rotem said in a Facebook post Thursday. “While as an Orthodox Jew, I have theological differences with the Reform Movement’s perspective, I maintain the greatest respect for all Jews, regardless of their denomination and background. I apologize for any misunderstanding and all offense generated by the content of my comments yesterday.
“I hope that this clarification can generate the necessary debate on how to further unify the Jewish People, both in Israel and the Diaspora, around our shared vital interests and concerns, rather than limiting it to the differences that exist among us,” he concluded in the post.
Rotem said he had agreed to meet with a group of Reform Jewish leaders next week.
He came under fire from religious and other Jewish groups for remarks he reportedly made Tuesday during a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which he chairs, on changing Israel’s child adoption law.
“The Reform movement is not Jewish … they are another religion,” he reportedly said in comments attributed to him late Wednesday in the Israeli media.
Rotem, a member of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party, a major coalition partner, told Army Radio on Thursday morning that his comments were a “big mistake.” He told the radio station that the Reform movement is “another Jewish religion” in the same way that the haredi Orthodox are.