Peres Reaches Out to Leader of British Reform Jews

Daphna Berman
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Daphna Berman

President Shimon Peres called yesterday for a more inclusive definition of Judaism and said the Jewish people have the right to decide who is a rabbi. He made the comments in his first official meeting with representatives of the Reform movement since he assumed the post in July. The meeting yesterday with leaders of Britain's Reform movement came in the wake of last year's crisis after then president Moshe Katsav refused to use the title "rabbi" in addressing Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, which represents some 1.5 million Reform Jews in North America.

During the half-hour meeting at the President's Residence, Peres addressed delegation leader Rabbi Dr. Tony Bayfield as "rabbi," according to participants. Bayfield heads the Movement for Reform Judaism in the United Kingdom.

"If rabbis have a right to decide who is a Jew, the Jewish people have a right to decide who is a rabbi," Peres reportedly told the group. The president also said that he was "troubled" by attempts to narrowly define Jewishess. "We are a disappearing people," he said. "We are not the Chinese. There are only 14-15 million of us. We need to be more careful, generous and understanding."

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