Amid Public Controversy |

Israel's Chief Rabbis Back Anti-abortion Group: 'Killing Fetuses Is Murder'

Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger issue letter of support for Efrat organization, which works to prevent abortions in Israel; letter follows a tragic shooting last year to which Efrat was indirectly linked.

Yair Ettinger
Yair Ettinger
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Yair Ettinger
Yair Ettinger

Israel’s chief rabbis Wednesday issued a letter of support for the Efrat organization, which works to prevent abortions in Israel and has recently been the focus of public controversy.

In their letter to synagogue and community rabbis, Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger said “we see great importance in the work of the Efrat association to save the lives of Jewish children; over its 30 years of activity, tens of thousands of fetuses were saved, and in the past year alone, the lives of 4,000 children were saved.”

This is not the first time the chief rabbis have expressed support for Efrat; in recent years, they have adopted the custom of issuing a letter of support during the week that congregations read the Torah portion of Shemot, which describes the Egyptian murder of Jewish newborns and the efforts made by two midwives to save them. Some synagogues make appeals on behalf of Efrat on this Shabbat.

This time, however, the rabbis’ letter follows a tragic shooting last year to which Efrat was indirectly linked. In October, 18-year-old Raz Attias was killed in a shootout with police, who were trying to prevent him from carrying out his plan to commit suicide with his girlfriend after the couple found out she was pregnant. The young woman’s family later claimed she had been pressured by volunteers from Efrat to forgo an abortion. Efrat vehemently denied ever having contacted the girl.

The rabbis’ letter issued Wednesday uses much stronger language than in the past. Last year the rabbis wrote they were working to “encourage births among the Jewish people and to prevent unnecessary abortions.” This year they called for “making the wider public aware of the extreme seriousness involved in killing fetuses, which is like actual murder.”

The letter also expresses support for Schussheim, whom they describe as “the noted physician who works unceasingly to save the lives of fetuses.” The Chief Rabbinate Council maintains a committee that works with Schussheim to try to reduce the number of abortions.

In the letter, the rabbis instructed the marriage departments in the country’s religious councils to continue distributing the booklet “For a Happy Marriage” that was produced by Efrat, due to “its great importance and necessity.” They also wrote that “every rabbi who holds a conference on abortion or birth, or acts on this issue in any forum, should invite Efrat chairman Dr. Eli Schussheim to participate in the event, or consult with him as the country’s leading expert in this field, since it has been proved that [the organization] actually saves lives."

A demonstration is being organized against next week’s Jerusalem Conference and the weekly Besheva to protest their awarding of the Jerusalem Prize to Schussheim, Efrat’s founder and director. By Wednesday evening, more than 400 people had gone to the demonstration’s Facebook page and pledged to attend next Monday’s protest.

A sign by the anti-abortion group Efrat in Tel Aviv.Credit: Moti Milrod

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott