The Knesset Ethics Committee on Tuesday slapped Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush on the wrist for making disparaging remarks about Reform Judaism and a feminist prayer group earlier this year.
While saying the United Torah Judaism MK’s outburst was “inappropriate,” and “drastically deviated from the conduct that is acceptable in the Knesset or toward Knesset members,” the committee chose to reprimand Porush rather than hand down a harsher punishment, saying it was his first offense since the elections last March.
During a February plenum speech addressing a government decision to set aside an area near Jerusalem’s Western Wall for non-Orthodox prayer, Porush, a member of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, said the feminist prayer group Women of the Wall should be “thrown to the dogs.”
Porush went on to attack Reform Judaism, claiming the movement and its members are “responsible for the terrible intermarriage that we’ve been witnessing in the United States.”
The Ethics Committee said that “scornful” remarks such as Porush’s, had they been uttered about Jews in a parliament outside Israel, would be “deplored harshly.”
His attacks on liberal Judaism and its associated movements were part of a wider protest by some religious lawmakers who staunchly opposed the creation of a non-Orthodox prayer section at the holy site.
Moshe Gafni, who chairs the Knesset’s powerful Finance Committee and is himself a member of Porush’s UTJ party, said in February that he would not recognize the decision, calling Reform Jews “a bunch of clowns who stab the holy Torah.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backed the plan to designate a prayer area for non-Orthodox prayer, calling it “a historic compromise that ensures that the Western Wall will continue to be a source of unity and inspiration for the entire Jewish people.”
He firmly rejected “disparaging and divisive remarks” made by lawmakers in the wake of the agreement.