Former Chief Rabbi of Israel Calls Reform Jews Worse Than Holocaust Deniers

Responding to Western Wall agreement with liberal Jewish movements, Shlomo Amar said Reform Jews want to 'desecrate the holy,' not pray

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Former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Shlomo Amar, in his Jerusalem office, September 2012
Former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Shlomo Amar, in his Jerusalem office, September 2012Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar called Reform Jews worse than Holocaust deniers because they reject traditional Jewish law.

>>Reform Jewish leader warns: Ex-chief rabbi's comments could lead to violence

Amar, who is a former chief rabbi of Israel, in his weekly class last week referenced the Israel Supreme Court decision, handed down hours earlier, in which it called on the government to either reinstate the Western Wall agreement with non-Orthodox groups or explain why it should not force the state to honor the deal.

The hearing was in answer to a petition filed by the liberal Jewish movements in Israel and the Women of the Wall calling for the implementation of the agreement to expand and upgrade the egalitarian prayer section at the southern end of the Western Wall. The agreement puts the upgraded section on equal footing with the single-sex sections; it would be run by a special committee with no input from the Chief Rabbinate.

In June, the Cabinet suspended the deal passed in 2016 negotiated by the Reform and Conservative movements, the Women of the Wall, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government. The government’s Ultra-Orthodox coalition partners pressured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to scrap the agreement.

“They don’t have Yom Kippur or Shabbat but they want to pray [at the Western Wall]. But no one should think that they want to pray, they want to desecrate the holy. They are trying to deceive and say that extremist Haredim invented ”separate prayer at the Western Wall,” Amar said during his lecture, first reported Tuesday in the Haredi Orthodox news website Kikar HaShabbat.

“It’s like Holocaust deniers, it’s the same thing. They shout about Holocaust deniers in Iran, but they deny more than Holocaust deniers. In all of the Mishna and Gemara there was a women’s section and a section for men in the Temple. Did we invent this?” Amar also said, referring to the Talmud.

In an interview with Israel Hayom newspaper in November 2016, Amar called Reform Jews “evil,” also in reference to the agreement to create an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, which is backed by the liberal Jewish streams in the United States.

“There aren’t many Reform [Jews] in Israel,” Amar said. “In recent years they have been importing it, this culture. What they are doing is incitement. It is not a matter of personal distress; it’s politics. I try to speak kindly, but I will not refrain from talking about Reform [Jews] or the abomination. I will not change what is written in the Torah.”

In the same interview he called homosexuality an “abomination,” leading to protests outside of his Jerusalem office. At least two complaints were filed with police, characterizing what he said as incitement to murder against homosexuals.

“I call on them, in warm and friendly language, to leave their bad path. The Torah has forbidden it [homosexuality] and calls it an abomination,” Amar said. “It is a cult of abomination. It is clear that it is abomination. The Torah punishes it with death. There is no such thing as having understanding or tolerance for this.”

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