An ultra-Orthodox deputy mayor of Jerusalem pulled out of a professional conference in the city this week after he learned it was being held in a facility run by the Conservative movement.
Eliezer Rauchberger, who holds the powerful building and planning portfolio, was supposed to be a keynote speaker at the national convention of the Real Estate Appraisers Association in Israel on Monday. The event was held at the Agron Guesthouse in downtown Jerusalem, which often hosts delegations and youth groups affiliated with the Conservative movement.
Rauchberger, a representative of the ultra-Orthodox Degel Hatorah party, had committed to addressing the convention. Several hours ahead of the event, he notified the organizers that he would not be attending after learning about the Conservative movement connection to the venue.
Rauchberger is one of seven deputy mayors in Jerusalem and one of two who also serve as acting mayor.
Asked why he withdrew from the event, Rauchberger wrote Haaretz in an email: “Reform and Conservative [Jews] champion the destruction of Judaism. The people of Israel and residents of Jerusalem, whom I have the honor to serve, are not connected to these movements and do not want them to gain a foothold in the city or within the Jewish people. I do not have and will not have any connection to these heretical movements.”
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When asked if he planned to boycott all events in the city connected, in some way or another, with the non-Orthodox movements, Rauchberger wrote: “Of course.”
Yizhar Hess, the executive director of the Conservative movement in Israel, said in response: “Just imagine that the deputy mayor of Vienna or Prague or Paris would walk out of a venue because it was a ‘Jewish center.’ There would be a huge uproar, and Israel would demand — and rightly so — that heads fly.”
By acting as he did, Hess added, Rauchberger demonstrated that “he does not have even an ounce of statesmanship in him and zero respect for the position he fills.”
The Conservative movement leader called on Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon to summon his deputy for clarifications and demand that he apologize on behalf of the city.