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5 Orthodox Organizations Assail 4 U.S. Secular Agencies for Interfering in Law of Return Issue

August 14, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Five American Orthodox organizations joined in a statement today assailing four secular agencies for alleged interference in the internal affairs of Israel and with causing disunity among the Jewish people.

A key issue is the long-running verbal battle over demands of Orthodox Jews throughout the world that Israel’s Law of Return, which provides that any Jew may enter Israel as of right, be modifed by the Knesset in regard to converted Jews to apply only to those converted under Orthodox auspices. It is understood to be certain to be an issue in the current negatiations for a new coalition government in Israel.

The Orthodox agencies were the Rabbinical Council of America, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the National Council of Young Israel, Agudath Israel of America, and the Religious Zionist Organization of America. Their denunciation was aimed at the American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, B’nai B’rith, and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.


The Orthodox agencies complained that the secular organizations might be using the United Jewish Appeal and the United Israel Appeal “to rally support for” the Reform and Conservative movements of Judaism on the question of “Who is a Jew.”

This involves another long-running battle, this time with secular and liberal religious agencies lined up against Orthodox organizations on criteria to be used in determining the validity of Jewish identity claimed by would-be immigrants to Israel and in internal debates in diaspora communities. The Orthodox agencies asserted that the four secular agencies were “pressuring” Israel’s government on matters of “intemal policy.” They listed pressures on Israel “to stop the drive” to have the Law of Return amended to provide that a non-Jew must be converted according to Jewish religious law (halacha).

The Orthodox statement asserted there is “utilization of the United Jewish Appeal and the United Israel Appeal to rally support for the position of Conservative and Reform Judaism on ‘Who is a Jew.’ These organizations were not established to deal with issues of Jewish law which are beyond their scope and competence.”

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