Home  Principles & Statements  Positions of the ACJ  Articles  DonationsAbout Us  Contact Us  Links                                         

Religious Pluralism Is Called A Danger To Israel As Expressions Of Intolerance Mount

Allan Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
November-December 1999

While religious freedom and pluralism works well in the United States, it is a bad idea for Israel, argues Dr. Mandell Ganchrow, president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations.  
In an interview with the Washington Jewish Week (Dec. 2, 1999), Ganchrow said that pluralism in America’s predominantly Christian society allows Jews to function as Jews while enjoying civil liberties. "It makes it possible to have day schools, mikvaot (ritual baths), synagogues and people walking in the street with kippot."  

Ganchrow is sharply critical of those American Jews who call for religious pluralism in Israel and object to the limitations placed upon Reform and Conservative rabbis and religious movements. He states, "Do American Jews—some who have never been to Israel, who contribute to federation or UJC (United Jewish Communities)—do they have the right to demand changes for the Israeli state because they are uncomfortable? Israel has rejected these changes."  

In Israel, an army officer has been removed from his position because he likened non-Orthodox Judaism to Nazi crimes.  

In a talk to sixty soldiers about the question of the status of women, the instructor, Lt. Gamliel Peretz, began by citing the traditional morning blessing in which, he said, all Jewish men thank God for not making them women. The New York Times (Nov. 23, 1999) reports that, "One young soldier, the teenage daughter of a Reform rabbi, raised her hand to challenge him. Not all Jews say that, she said. Some use an alternative blessing which thanks God for making people as they are. According to army records, the lieutenant, who is Orthodox, then said, ‘The Reform and Conservative are not Jews to me...The Reform and the Conservative caused the assimilation of eight million Jews, and this was worse than the Holocaust, in which only six million were killed."  

Lt. Peretz was suspended from the Israeli Defense Forces, an action which The Times notes "was an unusually swift and resolute response in which the Israeli Army drew a clear boundary between acceptable and unacceptable discourse on religious pluralism...This boundary is not often drawn here (in Israel) . . .where the state religious authorities are rigorously Orthodox and do not recognize the liberal movements to which most American Jews belong."  

Rabbi Richard A. Block, president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, said that he faced a similar verbal assault from a member of parliament. He and another well-known Reform rabbi had been invited to attend a parliament committee meeting on conversion. A legislator from the United Torah Judaism Party entered the committee. "He started screaming," Rabbi Block said. "He said he wouldn’t sit with the Reform because we’ve caused assimilation of millions of Jews worse than the Nazis. It was the same thing this officer said, but I guess it’s O.K. for a Knesset member."  

An advertisement appeared in the ultra-Orthodox press which declared that, "As darkness covers the earth, the Reform and Conservative sects that are the destroyers of the religion are trying to dig their nails into the Holy Land and receive recognition as though they were streams of Judaism, God forbid. We hereby pronounce da’at Torah (this Torah opinion) that it is conceivable to grant them any recognition whatsoever, and it is forbidden to conduct any negotiations with the destroyers that counterfeit Torah..." This ad was signed by such Orthodox leaders as Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv, the leading halachic authority of the haredi community and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas’ spiritual mentor, among others.  

Rabbi Ehud Bandel, president of the Masorti (Conservative) movement in Israel, writes in The Washington Jewish Week (Dec. 2, 1999) that, "It is not only the haredi community that holds this opinion. The Chief Rabbinate, which operates under the authority of the Knesset, voices no disgust at comparisons between non-Orthodox streams of Judaism and the Nazis..."

< return to article list
© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.