Israel’s education minister: Intermarriage among US Jews ‘like second Holocaust’

ADL chief says Rafi Peretz’s remark ‘trivializes the Shoah’; Israel-Diaspora activist group calls Israeli discourse about US Jews ‘irresponsible and disrespectful’

Education Minister Rafi Peretz arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on June 30, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Education Minister Rafi Peretz arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on June 30, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The rate of intermarriage among US Jews is “like a second Holocaust,” Israel’s new minister of education said.

Rafi Peretz made the statement at a cabinet meeting on July 1, Axios reported Tuesday, citing three people who were in the room.

Peretz, a former chief rabbi of the Israeli army, is the leader of the Union of Right Wing Parties bloc.

Peretz said the assimilation of Jews around the world and mostly in the US was “like a second Holocaust,” and also said that, due to intermarriages in the last 70 years, the Jewish people “lost 6 million people,” according to the report, which added that Peretz’s spokesman confirmed the account.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz speaks at a conference in Tel Aviv on February 27, 2019. (Flash90)

The July 1 cabinet meeting included a briefing by Dennis Ross, chairman of the board of the Jewish People Policy Institute, on trends in Jewish communities around the world, especially in North America. The topic of intermarriage came up during the briefing.

Axios reported that Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) pushed back against Peretz’s remarks.

“First we need to stop disregarding and looking down on Jews in America that see themselves as Jews not only religiously but even more culturally and historically,” he reportedly said.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, was among the American Jewish leaders critical of Peretz’s remarks.

“It’s inconceivable to use the term ‘Holocaust’ to describe Jews choosing to marry non-Jews. It trivializes the Shoah,” Greenblatt tweeted. “It alienates so many members of our community. This kind of baseless comparison does little other than inflame and offend.”

The Ruderman Family Foundation, which has taken Israeli politicians on tours of American Jewish communities in recent years, condemned Peretz’s remarks as “irresponsible and disrespectful.”

“Israel’s government has a moral responsibility to maintain and improve the country’s relationship with Diaspora Jews in general, and with the American Jewish community in particular. It is irresponsible and disrespectful to talk about US Jews without talking with them,” the foundation’s president, Jay Ruderman, said in the statement.

“I call upon all of Israel’s leaders, and especially those in office, to dedicate time and resources to learn more about the American Jewish community, its life and its challenges. A conversation between the sides is needed. But this requires time and planning, not random comments detached from an ongoing, respectful discourse.”

The American Jewish Congress also condemned his remarks as “offensive and unhelpful.”

“Assimilation challenges Jewish continuity and Diaspora identification with Israel and must be grappled with. Minister Peretz’s comments, however, are offensive and unhelpful,” the AJC said.

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