Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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25 Teves 5759 - Jan. 13, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Bill to Bar Reform From Religious Councils Postponed

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

A bill that would prevent Reform and Conservative Jews from sitting on the religious councils despite a ruling by the High Court was put on hold by the Knesset Law Committee last week.

The committee met to discuss the preparation of the religious councils bill for second and third reading in the plenum, but the vote was postponed after Meretz MK Dedi Zuker, with other opposition MKs, filed 2,400 reservations to it, all of which have to be discussed at the committee stage before the bill can go back to the plenum.

The bill, initiated by the Torah-observant parties, requires all members of the religious councils to pledge obedience to the rulings of the Chief Rabbinate and halacha.

The Chief Rabbinate has banned the religious councils that have non-Orthodox members from meeting, rather than have them meet with the non-Orthodox representatives on them, according to Rabbi Simha Kook from the Chief Rabbinate.

Supporters of the bill also submitted reservations to minimize the effect of a High Court ruling that permitted the inclusion of Reform and Conservative representatives into a number of religious councils. The reservations determine that all members of the religious councils must declare that they will act only in accordance with the halocho (as determined by the Chief Rabbinate or the local rabbinates), and that anyone who violates his declaration and the directives of the halocho will automatically be expelled from the council.

This reservation is necessary in light of the intention of the Reform and the Conservative to grant lip service to any declaration they are asked to make, even that demanding that they act in accordance with the halacha, in order to be able to sit on the religious councils.

A meeting of MKs to discuss the bill immediately deteriorated into an argument over whether the religious councils are halachic-religious bodies or merely administrative ones.

The Deputy Religious Affairs Minister, Rabbi Aryeh Gamliel (Shas) said that the religious councils issue decisions and act on clear halachic topics, such as mikvaos, kashrus and eruvim, and therefore there is no doubt that they are distinct religious arms. MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said that just as it is inconceivable for a Jew to tell a Moslem how to conduct his religious life, so the Reform and Conservatives may not tell Jews how to conduct their religious lives.

Dedi Zucker (Meretz) protested that totally secular Jews, who desecrate Shabbos in public, are allowed to officiate in religious councils, while the Reform are denied this opportunity. MK Rabbi Laizerson replied that this matter also has to be corrected, and that it is indeed inconceivable for a person who desecrates Shabbos to be affiliated with a religious service.

HaRav Simcha Kook, the Chief Rabbi of Rechovot, expressed the position of the Chief Rabbinate Council. This position, formulated at its meeting a few weeks ago, states that no religious representative shall sit on a religious council alongside a member of the Reform or Conservative movements and that if the Reform or Conservatives enter the religious councils, the religious members will not sit there with them.

"The Reform and Conservative movements have formulated a new thesis which has no link to religion. The Jewish faith is structured on belief in the Creator of the universe. Is it conceivable for clerics who declare that they don't believe in the Creator of the universe, rachmono litzlan, to sit in religious councils?" he asked.

The Reform representative, Uri Regev said that the religious council is clearly a civil body, and that the entire law is meant to restrict the Reform movement and undermine the ruling of the court.

The Conservative representative said that despite the law, and despite all of the declarations which members of the religious councils will be asked to make, they will find the way to participate in the meetings of the religious councils.

MK Rabbi Laizerson said that these remarks are very serious, because they manifest a clear, pre-mediated intent to sign and pronounce false declarations.

MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) adamantly opposed the Reform and the Conservative movements. "For 50 years," he said, "the red lines were not crossed. In this country, there must be only one Judaism. Only the halocho can determine one's Jewish status...There is one Judaism, and no other. "The Reform movement doesn't want pluralism. They want war. Most of the residents of the State of Israel want the halocho to prevail in marriages, divorces, circumcisions and the like. This is the aspiration of most of the public here. It would be preferable if there were no need for the law...But since there is...we will fight the Reform tooth and nail."

MK Rabbi Laizerson said: "This is our position regarding the Reform: They are dangerous, they falsify the Torah, they divide the Nation. The directive not to sit with the Reform and Conservativere presentatives nor to cooperate with them in any religious forum whatsoever was made by the gedolei Yisroel of the United States 40 years ago."

He then turned to the Reform representative: "You are not satisfied with the havoc you wreaked in the U.S., but come here to Eretz Yisroel with a mock-religion, which is all tomfoolery and a joke. You don't need the religious councils. All you want is war. But that won't help you. There is no power, no authority or body on earth which will permit this. We won't sit with you. We won't cooperate with you . We won't do a thing with you. You are wasting your time. Leave religion alone. Leave us alone. No rabbi and no religious person who believes in Hashem and His Torah will ever grant you legitimization. We will fight you tooth and nail. We will not let the destruction you caused in America be duplicated here."


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