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2,000 Orthodox Jews Protest Israel’s Handling of ‘who is a Jew’ Issue

January 10, 1972
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Some 2,000 Orthodox Jews, among them heads of yeshivot, leaders of the Agudat Israel and Mizrachi, students and leaders of the Lubavitcher movement, met here today at the Beis Medrash Hagadol, the Lower East Side’s largest and most historic synagogue, to protest Israel’s handling of the “Who is a Jew” issue.

Called by the Union of Orthodox Rabbis (Agudas Horabonim), the conference urged the Israeli government to insert the words “according to halacha” into its “who is a Jew” law, an amendment to the Law of Return, which defines a Jew as one born of a Jewish mother or one converted to Judaism, without specifying how the conversion was accomplished, A number of speakers at the mass rally accused the Israel government of allowing non-Jews to enter Israel as Jews with full rights and privileges of an oleh.


“This practice is the greatest danger facing Jewish survival today.” claimed Rabbi Simcha Elberg of the Agudas Horabonim, “because it accomplishes by legislation what the sword, lifted against Jews for centuries could not accomplish.” Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, president of the Agudas Horabonim, urged all Jews who care about our continuity to “scream out” to the Israel government on the Issues of “Who is a Jew” as well as on the other two prevailing controversies–the autopsy and drafting of women issues.

A proclamation Issued at the rally called for the resignation of three Mizrachi Ministers–Dr. Josef Burg, Minister of Interior, Dr. Zerach Warhaftig, Minister of Religion, and Michael Hazanni, Minister of Social Welfare–at a consequence of their misrepresentation of the policies and feelings of Israel’s religious population. “We no longer intend to remain silent,” Rabbi Elberg told the overflow audience. “The ‘Who is a Jew’ issue affects not only Israel but 14.000,000 Jews all over the world.” Another speaker said the Issue will ultimately “split the Jewish people in two.”

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