Reform Jews Cannot Be Called Jews, Says Israel's Religious Services Minister

David Azoulay's remarks come after previous offensive comments enraged Jewish reform leaders last month.

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Haaretz
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Religious Services Minister David Azoulay during a tour of Jerusalem.
Religious Services Minister David Azoulay during a tour of Jerusalem.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
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Haaretz

Religious Services Minister David Azoulay (Shas) angered Reform Jews on Tuesday morning, by saying that they cannot be considered Jewish.

Speaking to Army Radio, the minister said, "Let's just say there's a problem as soon as a Reform Jew stops following the religion of Israel. I can't allow myself to say that such a person is a Jew."

He continued: "These are Jews that erred along the way, and we must ensure that every Jew comes back into the fold of Judaism, and accept everyone happily and with love."

Azoulay's comments followed an Israeli Cabinet decision to reverse an initiative aimed at easing the conversion process to Judaism. It marked a blow to the previous government's attempts to break the ultra-Orthodox monopoly in Israel and make Judaism more inclusive.

This isn't the first time that the minister has caused offense in the Reform community. Last month, Israeli Reform leaders demanded he step down after he made disparaging remarks about their movement.

David Azoulay, was quoted then in the Hebrew-language daily Israel Hayom calling the Reform movement “a disaster for the nation of Israel.”

"Millions of Reform Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora have had it with the ugly lashings out of ultra-Orthodox politicians,” said Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Reform movement in Israel, responding to Azoulay’s remarks. “If Minister Azoulay cannot function as minister for all the citizens of Israel, then he should resign."

In June, Reform Jewry representatives also dispatched an urgent letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requesting that he publicly distance himself from Azoulay’s remarks.

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