Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

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







Vote-Buying Scandal
Reform Admits It Bribes MKs Who Vote Their Way

by B. Kahn

Certain MKs have been receiving bribes from the U.S. Reform movement in exchange for their votes on legislation that would promote further Reform incursions into Eretz Yisroel. The scandal surfaced last week after U.S. Reform movement officials declared that they would terminate financial support to MKs who vote for the Conversion Law or for the Jewish Religious Services Law (i.e. the Religious Councils Law).

The American Reform and Conservative movements, frustrated over parliamentary efforts to limit their participation in religious councils and to reject their conversions, jumped into the Israeli electoral campaign when they threatened to withhold financial support from candidates who do not support religious pluralism.

"We must use the power of our dollar, as well the power of our voice, to indicate that we will not support legislators-- we will not support candidates for prime minister--who do not have a sensitivity to the concerns of the American Jewish community, to the Diaspora Jewish community," Jerome Epstein, director of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, said at a news conference in New York of Reform and Conservative leaders.

The leaders of the movements declined to estimate how much their members raise for political candidates.

"Those who keep their promises, we'll remember that. Those who don't, we'll remember that, too," said Eric Yoffie, head of the Reform movement's Union of American Hebrew Congregations. They called on their members not to contribute to any person or organization that does not commit to pluralism and respect for Reform and Conservative Jews.

The Reform and Conservative leaders also reaffirmed their policy of April 1997, in which they called on their 1,800 member congregations in North America to boycott MKs who support conversion legislation. The congregations have been asked not to extend speaking invitations to these MKs or to support any local communal activity to which they have been invited.

United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz has demanded an immediate investigation to determine the identities of the MKs who benefited from Reform financial support this past year, and which of them are on line to receive such funds in order to promote their candidacies during the upcoming primaries and elections.

"I consider the Reform movement's announcement as a stab in the back of Israeli democracy, and as severely hampering the independence of the Knesset and the ability of its members to legislate according to their consciences." Rabbi Ravitz wrote to the Israeli Attorney General's office. "There is no doubt that the taking of such money constitutes a violation of the law. A quick investigation must be made, in order to prevent those MKs from participating in the crucial votes pertaining to the affairs of the Reform movement, due to a clear conflict of interests, and the fear of alien influences." Rabbi Ravitz also sent a letter to the speaker of the Knesset, Dan Tichon, calling on him to do his utmost in order to remove this scourge from the Knesset.

By the same token, Rabbi Ravitz asked the chairman of the Knesset Ethics Committee, Yehuda Lankri, to convene the committee immediately, and to inform MKs who have taken bribes from the Reform movement, that they cannot participate in voting on issues pertaining to the Reform movement, due to a conflict of interests.

In his letter to Lankri, Rabbi Ravitz claimed that such a decision was made in the past by the committee, when trips by MKs to the United States, sponsored by the Reform movement, were revealed as a form of bribe-taking.

Deputy Minister, UTJ MK Rabbi Meir Porush also demanded that the State Prosecutor investigate the identities of those to whom the Reform movement and their affiliates contributed money, and check to see if these funds are recorded in the party's records, as demanded by the law.

"To what contributions are they referring to? To the $300 which, according to the law a party is permitted to receive? I doubt it. In my opinion, they are referring to much larger donations, which necessitate an investigation by the State Prosecutor, especially if they are referring to personal contributions which the MKs will stop receiving if they vote against those laws," Rabbi Porush said.

"This is a very serious threat. The Israeli legal authorities must deal with them, in the same manner that one deals with every lawbreaker who threatens MKs, in order to tip a vote in his favor."


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