(JTA) — Twenty-two synagogues that belong to the national Orthodox Young Israel movement have condemned its defense of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political deal with a far-right party.
The synagogues called on the National Council of Young Israel to stop making political statements. Young Israel is an Orthodox synagogue association with 175 member congregations. Its political statements tend to the right.
“In recognition of the current, highly divisive political environment in the United States, Israel, and beyond, we … call upon NCYI leadership to immediately cease making all political pronouncements,” the synagogues’ statement said Friday, adding that “all past statements issued by NCYI leadership about political matters — including but not limited to its recent statement about Otzma Yehudit and the Israeli political process — do not represent the diverse views within our individual synagogue communities…”
The signatories included synagogue leaders from New York, New Jersey, California, Florida and other Jewish population centers.
Also Friday, 38 religious Zionist American rabbis signed a statement condemning the merger 0f Jewish Power, or Otzma Yehudit, an extremist party inspired by the late militant rabbi Meir Kahane, with the more moderate Jewish Home. Netanyahu had helped broker the deal in a bid to boost right-wing partners ahead of April elections.
“This violent, racist party has no place in the Religious Zionist movement,” the rabbis’ petition, organized by clergy at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York, read.
On Monday, the National Council of Young Israel’s president defended Netanyahu’s orchestration of the merger. While many major American Jewish groups condemned the merger as normalizing bigotry, NCYI called it a matter of political calculus.
Following a backlash, NCYI’s president clarified that the statement does not necessarily speak for individual synagogues. Days earlier, a prominent scholar of the Holocaust, Deborah Lipstadt, quit her Young Israel synagogue in Atlanta to protest the NCYI’s support for Netanyahu.