JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli opposition leader Avi Gabbay stirred controversy by saying that the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting should spur American Jews to move to Israel.
While others focused on sending sympathy, the tone-deaf Gabbay called “upon the Jews of the United States to immigrate more and more to Israel, because this is their home.”
In a tweet on Sunday morning, Deputy Minister Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States, strongly took issue with Gabbay — and urged that Israel do more to build ties with liberal streams of Judaism like the one targeted by the Pittsburgh shooter.
“The Conservative Jews of Pittsburgh were sufficiently Jewish to be killed because they were Jews but their movement is not recognized by the Jewish State,” Oren wrote. “Israel must bolster these communities, already challenged by assimilation, by strengthening our ties with them.”
Gabbay in an interview with the Ynet Hebrew language news website, told reporter Attila Somfalvi Jews of the United States should immigrate to Israel and, “at the same time, I call on this government to embrace the Reform and Conservative movements and to pass the Western Wall plan” for an egalitarian prayer space.
Oren responded to the call for aliyah, tweeting in Hebrew: “Avi Gabbay said things that should not be said because he simply does not understand. Through his words he adds insult to injury. The call to U.S. Jewry, especially after last night, deeply hurts their feelings and reduces their desire for aliyah. Gabbay does not understand anything about Israel’s relationship with the Diaspora.”
Opposition party Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, echoed Gabby and Oren in calling for recognition of the liberal streams of Judaism.
“If you are murdered because you are a Jew, then you are a Jew,” he said in a statement also posted on Facebook. “The Conservative and Reform are our brothers. They are our family.”