Deputy minister: Recognize non-Orthodox Jews after US synagogue shooting

Michael Oren says Diaspora Affairs Minister Bennett should not ‘suffice with condolences’ on his trip to Pittsburgh

MK Michael Oren. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)
MK Michael Oren. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

Deputy Minister Michael Oren said Sunday that in light of the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue, Israel must recognize liberal Jews as a way of strengthening relations between the Jewish state and the Diaspora.

“Liberal Jews were Jewish enough to be murdered, but their stream is not Jewish enough to be recognized by the Jewish State,” Oren tweeted.

“The murder would weaken communities that are already fighting assimilation. Israel must strengthen the communities by tightening the connections with them,” he said. “I call on Minister Bennett not to suffice with condolences, but to recognize liberal Jewish streams and unite the people.”

Eleven people were killed and at least six were injured in the shooting on Saturday at a synagogue in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life Synagogue, a Conservative congregation in the city. Conservative Judaism is a liberal, non-Orthodox stream of the religion.

Oren echoed a statement by the opposition Yesh Atid party’s chairman, Yair Lapid, who said that the victims were “good Jews who love Israel and who for years the Israeli government has been saying are not really Jewish among us,” referring to laws in Israel that do not recognize conversions by those communities.

“So,” Lapid continued, “they are Jewish among us. Because if they try to murder you because you are Jewish, then you are Jewish.”

Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett flew on Saturday evening to Pittsburgh, where he is expected to attend funerals of the victims and visit with their families. He also said he had instructed the Diaspora Ministry to prepare to assist the Pittsburgh Jewish community.

Israel and Diaspora Jewry have seen growing divisions surrounding the Orthodox grip on the country’s institutions. A particular point of contention has been the long-delayed pluralistic plaza at the Western Wall, plans that the government canceled following ultra-Orthodox pressure, but has since resurrected in partial form.

Illustrative: A young member of Women of the Wall holds up the miniature Torah scroll during the monthly Rosh Hodesh service on June 25, 2017, in the women’s section of the Western Wall plaza, just before Netanyahu froze the Kotel Agreement. (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)

The ultra-Orthodox-controlled Chief Rabbinate also has a near-monopoly on state-recognized conversions to Judaism, a situation that has been the subject of criticism and ongoing advocacy from Conservative and Reform movements.

A survey earlier this month showed a significant rise in support for Conservative and Reform Judaism in Israel, as well as a growing number of people who identify as Conservative and Reform Jews.

JTA contributed to this report.

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