Firestorm Over Israeli Lawmaker's Claim That Reform Movement is 'Not Jewish'

Will Ruling Party Member Face Reprimand?

Real Jews? U.S. Conservative leaders defended the Reform movement, of which Rabbi Rick Jacobs (above) is leader.
CLARK JONES/URJ
Real Jews? U.S. Conservative leaders defended the Reform movement, of which Rabbi Rick Jacobs (above) is leader.

By JTA

Published February 05, 2014.
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Israeli lawmaker David Rotem, who heads an influential Knesset committee, said the Reform movement “is not Jewish.”

Rotem, chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, and a member of the ruling government coalition from the Yisrael Beiteinu party, reportedly said during a committee meeting on Tuesday, “The Reform movement is not Jewish … they are another religion.”

The comments were reported late Wednesday in the Israeli media.

Rotem, who is Orthodox, made the remarks during a discussion on changing Israel’s child adoption law.

Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Reform movement in Israel, called on Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to reprimand Rotem.

“An assertion such as this makes it impossible for lawmaker Rotem to continue to chair discussions on sensitive issues such as conversion, who is a Jew and other topics that are associated with religion and state matters, and the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora,” Kariv said.

A statement from the Reform movement in Israel pointed out that use of the expression “another religion” was deliberate, since Israel’s Law of Return uses the same term to exclude non-Jews from making aliyah.

By using the term, the statement said, Rotem is saying Reform Jews have no place in Israel.

The leadership of the Conservative movement — including Rabbi Julie Schonfeld of the Rabbinical Assembly and Steven Wernick of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism — in a statement Wednesday lamented “the utter lack of leadership that makes these outrages so frequent and undermines the very aspirations that are the foundations of Judaism and the Jewish state.”

Saying ‘The Jewishness of the Reform Movement is beyond question and in no need of defense,” the statement called on the government of Israel to censure Rotem and remove him from leadership roles.

The Anti-Defamation League called on Rotem to retract his statements and apologize to the Reform movement.

In a letter to Rotem, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said the lawmaker’s views are “inappropriate, offensive and unjustified.”


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