Young Israel says statement defending Netanyahu did not speak for all its member synagogues


(JTA) — The Orthodox group that defended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s deal with a far-right political party says it was not speaking for all of its member synagogues.

“The short NCYI statement released in response to two news outlet requests concerning Prime Minister Netanyahu represented my personal views and that of many on our Board but may not reflect the view of all of the Young Israel Synagogues,” Young Israel’s president, Farley Weiss, says in an email.

On Monday, The National Council of Young Israel sent the Jewish Telegraphic Agency a statement defending Netanyahu after he orchestrated a merger between the extremist party, Jewish Power, and the more moderate right-wing Jewish Home. The statement called the merger a matter of political calculus.

“We understand what Prime Minister Netanyahu did, and he did it to have ministers of the national religious and national union parties in his coalition,” Monday’s statement said.

It was the first statement from a major American Jewish group defending Netanyahu’s actions. A range of major organizations have criticized it as normalizing a far-right party.

The statement was in the name of Weiss, but the subject line of the email said it was “a statement from the NCYI.” Nowhere did the email say that Weiss was not speaking for the organization.

But on Thursday, following some backlash, Weiss sent an email to Young Israel member congregations clarifying that the statement represented the views of Weiss and many Young Israel board members but did not speak for all member congregations.

Thursday’s  statement followed an announcement by Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt that she would be canceling her membership at Young Israel of Toco Hills in Atlanta due to the statement. That synagogue’s rabbi, Adam Starr, had also condemned the Young Israel statement on Facebook.

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