Education Minister Rafi Peretz, head of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, said Tuesday his description of Jewish intermarriage around the world as a “second Holocaust” had been improper, adding that he did not mean to offend Diaspora Jewry with his remarks.
“Out of deep concern for the fate of the Jewish people I made use of the word ‘Shoah,’ an expression which was meant to express the depths of the agony, and probably was not proper. It goes without saying that I had no intention of insulting a single person in the Diaspora Jewry,” Peretz wrote in a letter to Jewish Agency chief Isaac Herzog.
“As one who has always championed ahavat yisrael — love of Israel — it is important for me to clarify that I respect and cherish the entire Jewish people in Israel and in the Diaspora,” added Peretz.
Herzog had asked Peretz to issue a clarification on his comments in order to prevent a rift with world Jewry.
Peretz made the statement invoking the Nazi genocide at a cabinet meeting on July 1, according to several people who were in the room, according to Channel 13 news. He added that due to the assimilation of Jews in the last 70 years the Jewish people had “lost 6 million people.”
His comments were roundly condemned by the Anti-Defamation League, with CEO Jonathan Greenblatt calling the use of the term in the context of intermarriage “inconceivable.”
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.” The American Jewish Congress also condemned his remarks as “offensive and unhelpful.”
Peretz again caused an uproar over the weekend, and even sparked calls for his ouster, when he said during a televised interview that gay conversion therapy works and that he in the past sent pupils to undergo the procedure.
Gay conversion therapy has been widely discredited by the medical establishment.
JTA contributed to this report.