(JTA) — T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights is urging action in Israel against two rabbis who made “denigrating” comments about LGBT people and women, among other comments that stirred controversy in recent days.
The rabbinic network, which represents some 1,800 rabbis in North America, said in a release Thursday that the Israel Defense Forces should rescind Rabbi Eyal Karim’s appointment as the Chief Rabbi of the IDF, and end government funding for the pre-military academy headed by Rabbi Yigal Levinstein.
“In a military organization which bills itself as ‘the most moral army in the world,’ people who serve as religious authorities must reflect the highest ethical standards of Judaism, be committed to the spiritual well-being of all members of the military, and consistently teach respect for human life,” according to a petition that T’ruah said had 300 signatures by Thursday afternoon.
“Instead, Rabbi Karim and Rabbi Levinstein have made statements denigrating LGBT people and women, and permitting the killing of wounded attackers and innocent civilians, all of which goes against the IDF’s own code of ethics as well as Jewish law.”
Karim, who was tapped last week for the chief rabbi post, is under fire for having said on a religious website that soldiers should disobey orders if they contradict Jewish law. Karim also presented the apparent justification for the rape of non-Jewish women during wartime.
The IDF’s chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, said that after meeting with Karim he would continue to support his nominee.
Levinstein, who runs the Bnei David academy, a pre-military yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Eli, has been the subject of public condemnation since a video speech surfaced on Sunday in which he called homosexuals “perverts.” He also claimed the Israeli army is promoting a socially liberal agenda and said the Reform movement isn’t Jewish but an offshoot of Christianity.
The army reportedly said it will reevaluate its collaboration with Levinstein, although there may be no legal grounds for withholding his funding, defense ministry officials said.
On Wednesday night, Haaretz reported, 300 rabbis signed a petition in support of Levinstein, supporting his condemnation of “behavior which celebrates a lifestyle contrary to human morality and the path of the Torah.”