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Mrs. Meir in Effort to Smooth Dissension in Religious Community

January 10, 1973
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Premier Golda Meir addressed herself to the current dissension within the Orthodox community here and abroad last night when she urged Jews and Israelis to live together in “Ahavat Israel” (Love of Israel) and to be tolerant of one another. Mrs. Meir, addressing the opening session of the 22nd World Conference of Mizrachi-Hapoel Hamizrachi which opened yesterday and continues through Sunday said she did not want her grandchildren to grow up in an atmosphere of “war among Jews” where it was impossible to have honorable differences of opinion, where protagonists were intolerant of each other and branded each other heretics.

Mrs. Meir urged the Religious Zionist movement to “strengthen the hands of the brave who have Ahavat Israel.” Her reference was to Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren who has come under bitter attack from right-wing Orthodox circles for his controversial ruling in the Langer case.


Rabbi Goren, who shared the dias with the Premier, delivered the keynote address at the convention, apparently because leaders of the National Religious Party which is part of the World Mizrachi Movement could not agree on one of their own members to receive the honor. He said Israel was in dire need of a strong Mizrachi movement and a strong chief rabbinate.

Rabbi Goren identified the Israeli rabbinate’s tasks as “bridging with love the gaps within society,” upholding balacha (religious law) as “the law of life” and serving as a world halachic authority. He proposed the creation of a world halachic council in Jerusalem to decide difficult problems. He noted that just as religious Zionism was attacked in its early days by the Orthodox right-wing, so he too was now under attack. But, he said, he would persevere.

The loudest and longest applause of the evening went to Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef whose open feud with Rabbi Goren is symptomatic of the current turmoil in Orthodox circles. The two chief rabbis sat apart on the-dias and did not speak to each other although each referred to the other respectfully in his speech. Rabbi Yosef urged the Mizrachi to draw closer to Torah-study circles in Israel.


Mrs. Meir’s plea for unity and tolerance not-withstanding, Rabbi Louis Bernstein, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, lashed out in his address at the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menahem Schneersohn, and by implication criticized Israel’s President Zalman Shazar for paying court to the leader of the hasidic sect. He assailed the phenomenon of “Israeli leaders streaming to a hasidic court in New York which 45 years ago opposed Zionism.”

Rabbi Bernstein also denounced the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s followers in Israel, the Habad Hasidim, for feting Mayor John V. Lindsay of New York when he visited Israel recently. Lindsay, claimed Bernstein, was responsible for the wholesale destruction of Jewish neighborhoods in New York. The convention is attended by over 500 delegates from 30 countries.

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