The president of the largest Reform Jewish organization in the world welcomed on Tuesday MK David Rotem’s full apology for reportedly saying the movement is “not Jewish.”
“It was heartening to hear the response by MK Rotem regarding the misunderstanding about his statement last week about Reform Jewry,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs said in a statement. “As the leader of the largest movement of Jewry in North America, and in solidarity with our sister movement, the Israeli Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, we want to acknowledge his comments and support for non-Orthodox forms of Jewry.
“We trust, moving forward, that we will all be able to work together to ensure that Israel and its laws represent the full spectrum of Jewry.”
Rotem, chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, and a member of the ruling coalition from Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party, had previously said at a committee meeting last Tuesday that, “the Reform movement is not Jewish … they are another religion.” Rotem, who is Orthodox, made the remarks during a discussion on changing Israel’s child adoption law.
Both the Reform Movement in Israel and the URJ condemned Rotem’s statements and asked Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to punish him. The leadership of the Conservative movement and Anti-Defamation League also chimed in.
At the start of a Knesset Law Committee meeting on Sunday, Rotem again addressed the remarks, which he had previously walked back on Thursday.
“I had no intention of hurting anyone or the Reform movement,” Rotem said, reading from a prepared statement. “There were those who tried to twist my words into meaning that I did not believe that Reform Jews are Jewish. For me, any Reform Jew born to a Jewish mother is a Jew like any other.
“My intention was that I have deep differences with the Reform movement about practical matters related to Judaism. At the same time, considering that we are all Jews and members of the same religion, we need to solve these differences in discussions and conversations around the table. I apologize to anyone who may have been hurt.”
Following Rotem’s apology, lawmaker Uri Maklev of the United Torah Judaism party said Rotem was forced to apologize and accused the Reform movement of bribing Israeli lawmakers, according to Haaretz.