Reform Movement Attacked Again in Israel's Knesset

After David Rotem apologises for saying Reform movement is 'not Jewish,' Ultra-Orthodox MK accuses Reform Jews of 'bribing' Israeli politicians.

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Minutes after the chairman of a powerful parliamentary committee apologized on Sunday for denigrating Reform Jews, the movement came under attack once again – this time from a an ultra-Orthodox Knesset member who accused its members of “bribing” Israeli politicians.

Last week, David Rotem, chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee set off a storm when he said that the Reform movement was “another religion” and “not Jewish.” At the start of the committee meeting Sunday, he asked to read out a written apology.

“I had no intention of hurting anyone or the Reform movement,” it said. “There were those who tried to twist my words into meaning that I did not believe that Reform Jews are Jewish. For me, any Reform Jew born to a Jewish mother is a Jew like any other. My intention was that I have deep differences with the Reform movement about practical matters related to Judaism. At the same time, considering that we are all Jews and members of the same religion, we need to solve these differences in discussions and conversations around the table. I apologize to anyone who may have been hurt.”

Rotem, a member of Likud-Beiteinu, had come under intense attack by American Jewish leaders for his remarks against Reform Judaism, some of whom demanded his ouster.

After he read out his apology, MK Uri Maklev of United Torah Judaism lashed out at Rotem, saying there was no reason to retract his statements, since, in his words, members of the Reform movement “put pressure on and bribe politicians.”

After praising Rotem for his apology, Gilad Kariv, director of the Reform movement in Israel, called Maklev’s statement “libelous” saying that “it is astounding that just a few days ago, MK Maklev was decrying incitement against the Haredi community, and now he does not even think twice about leading a new wave of incitement against millions in Israel and the Diaspora. It is a shame that such inciting words were said within the walls of the Knesset, and even worse, in the name of the Torah.”

Yizhar Hess, director of the Masorti-Conservative movement in Israel, called Maklev’s comments “an incitement to kill” and urged the Knesset Ethics Committee to take action against him if he did not retract his words.

Ultra-Orthodox MK Uri Maklev Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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