Embattled ultra-Orthodox Minister: Reform Jews Are Sinners, but They Are Still Jewish

Religious Services Minister David Azoulay however declines to apologize for saying Reform Jews aren't Jews.

Yair Ettinger
Yair Ettinger
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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
Yair Ettinger
Yair Ettinger

Religious Services Minister David Azoulay, whose remarks about Reform Jews earlier this week created an uproar, Wednesday blamed "interested parties" for exploiting what he had said “in order to increase divisions and cause a rift among the people.” However, he did not apologize for his remarks.

Azoulay told Army Radio on Tuesday that “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.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was among those who criticized the remarks, describing them as “hurtful” and stressing that they “do not represent the position of the government.”

“Of course, all Jews, even though they sin, are Jews,” Azoulay said during an address in the Knesset on Wednesday. “At the same time, it is with great pain that we view the damage caused by Reform Judaism, which has brought the greatest danger to the Jewish people, the danger of assimilation.”

“We will continue to pray for the repentance of the entire Jewish people, and we will do everything to be a beacon of light and values to all,” the minister continued. “The Jewish people has a history of preserving Judaism even during the most difficult times, and we will continue to preserve the heritage of the Jewish people.”

MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) took Azoulay to task for “going on about the danger of Reform Judaism,” instead of apologizing.

“Reform Judaism is the largest stream of Judaism in the world, together with Conservative Jews, and secular Jews and other Jews who wish to live as they see fit,” she said. “The fact that the monopoly over the definition of who is a Jew has been given to you, who represent a specific and narrow stream, is a problem that will be remedied, and your attempts to strengthen your hold only go to show that this monopoly will soon be broken.”

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