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Rabbis Irked by Recognition of Non-Jewish ‘Noahides’

Several Dutch rabbis criticized a rabbinical court’s recognition of non-Jews who observe Torah laws.

The court’s recognition took place at an oath-taking ceremony attended by several dozen Noahides, a term referring to non-Jews who observe the seven categories of religious laws specified in the Torah as part of God’s covenant with Noah after the flood.

Members of Rotterdam’s Noahide Ohel Abraham community took the oath last month at a ceremony led by two Orthodox rabbis from Israel, Uri Sherky and Efraim Choban. A Dutch rabbinical student, Meir Villegas Henriquez, also participated.

The ceremony constituted the first official recognition of Noahides in the Netherlands by Orthodox rabbis.

“It is not a good thing. It’s unclear, neither here nor there, and I don’t like it,” Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, a chief rabbi of the Netherlands, told the Jewish weekly NIW. Several other Dutch rabbis also expressed their discomfort with the ceremony.

The Israeli rabbis belong to the Noahide World Center in Jerusalem, a body which supports the Noahide oath and way of life as means of strengthening the bond between Jews and non-Jews.

“Some of them don’t want to convert, others can’t,” Villegas Henriquez told JTA, referring to the Ohel Abraham community. “But they all want to become closer to Judaism and we want to help because this is a welcome step.

We’re supposed to be a light unto the nations but that’s difficult to achieve by only praying in a synagogue with other Jews.”

Responding to the criticism, Villegas Henriquez published an op-ed defending his congregation in NIW on Jan. 5. The Dec. 16 ceremony did not violate or Jewish religious law, Villegas Henriquez wrote.

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