An Israeli minister cited the marriage of Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Hillary and Bill, to a Jewish man as an example of the extent to which American Reform Jews have become assimilated, and said all Reform Jews would disappear in two or three generations.
The Likud party’s Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, a secular Jew, was speaking during a discussion ahead of Sunday’s cabinet vote that approved a historic compromise allowing non-Orthodox streams of Judaism to pray at a new site at the Western Wall.
“Reform Jews in the US are a dying world,” Levin said of the largest Jewish denomination in America. “Assimilation is taking place on a vast scale. They’re not even tracking this properly in their communities. It’s evidenced by the fact that a man who calls himself a Reform rabbi stands there with a priest and officiates at the wedding of the daughter of Hillary Clinton and no one condemns it and so it gets legitimized,” Levin said.
Levin said that the issue at hand – the debate over whether to allow non-Orthodox prayer at the Western Wall – would become redundant anyway in “two to three generations” because all Reform Jews would be assimilated by then.
Levin then voted in favor of the compromise.
The director of the Reform Movement in Israel, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, slammed Levin’s comments as showing “ignorance, condescension and hatred” and said he was “inciting against millions” of Jews in the Diaspora.”
Kariv added that “Levin should rest at ease that the number of Reform Jews will only grow in two generations, also thanks to hundreds of thousands of Israelis who choose to believe in a tolerant, moderate and egalitarian Judaism.”
The government’s decision to approve a new site for pluralistic prayer at the Wall was lauded by representatives of several non-Orthodox streams. But MK Moshe Gafni, of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, vowed that there would never be official recognition of Reform Jews, who he called “a bunch of clowns who stick a knife in the holy Torah. Forever and ever there will not be any recognition of this group of clowns, not in the Western Wall nor anywhere else.
The Ruderman Family Foundation, a philanthropy organization focusing on relations between Jews in Israel and the US, slammed Gafni’s comments.
“On the same day the Israeli Government recognized the right of all Jews to worship at Judaism’s holiest site, strengthening Israel’s relationship with the vast majority of Diaspora Jews, a senior member of Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s coalition once again has insulted the largest religious stream in the American Jewish community,” said Jay Ruderman, president of the foundation. “In calling over 1.5 million American Reform Jews ‘clowns,’ Chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee Moshe Gafni has attempted to drive a wedge between the Jewish State and the most significant Jewish community in the Diaspora.”