Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay on Sunday backed the call by Deputy Minister Michael Oren to recognize the liberal streams of Judaism, in the wake of the shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 worshipers dead.
Gabbay also called “upon the Jews of the United States to immigrate more and more to Israel, because this is their home,” leading to criticism.
In a tweet on Sunday morning, Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States, said: “The Conservative Jews of Pittsburgh were sufficiently Jewish to be killed because they were Jews but their movement is not recognized by the Jewish State. Israel must bolster these communities, already challenged by assimilation, by strengthening our ties with them.”
He added, in his Hebrew tweet, but not in his English-language tweet on the same topic: “I call on Minister Bennett not to suffice with condolences, but to recognize liberal Jewish streams and unite the people.”
He was referring to the fact that Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who also serves as Diaspora affairs minister, in the hours after the attack flew to Pittsburgh in order to visit the synagogue, meet with the local Jewish community, and participate in the funerals of those killed in the attack
Gabbay in an interview with the Ynet Hebrew-language news website, said that US Jews should immigrate to Israel and, “at the same time, I call on this government to embrace the Reform and Conservative movements and to pass the Western Wall plan” for an egalitarian prayer space.
Oren responded to the call for increased immigration by tweeting in Hebrew: “Avi Gabbay said things that should not be said because he simply does not understand. Through his words he adds insult to injury. The call to US Jewry, especially after last night, deeply hurts their feelings and reduces their desire for aliyah [immigration]. Gabbay does not understand anything about Israel’s relationship with the Diaspora.”
Opposition party Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, echoed Gabby and Oren in calling for recognition of the liberal streams of Judaism.
“If you are murdered because you are a Jew, then you are a Jew,” he said in Saturday night statement. “The Conservative and Reform are our brothers. They are our family.”
“It is good that the minister of education traveled to Pittsburgh to comfort and strengthen, but the relationship with the majority of US Jews cannot be based on condolences and grief,” Lapid said. “We cannot bring back the dead, but we have a duty to fix our relationship with the living.”