Reform Jewish Leader Warns: Ex-chief Rabbi Comparing Reform Jews to Holocaust Deniers Could Lead to Violence

Responding to Western Wall agreement with liberal Jewish movements, Shlomo Amar said Reform Jews want to 'desecrate the holy'

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Non-Orthodox rabbis bring Torah scrolls into Western Wall plaza to protest Israel's inaction. Conservative Rabbi Steven Wernick (L), Reform Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Women of the Wall's Anat Hoffman (C), Conservative Rabbi Mauricio Balter, (R) Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv. November 2, 2016.
Non-Orthodox rabbis bring Torah into Western Wall: Conservative Rabbi Steven Wernick (L), Reform Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Women of the Wall's Anat Hoffman (C), Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv. Nov. 2, 2016Credit: Women of the Wall
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

WASHINGTON - Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the leader of the Reform Movement in North America, warned on Wednesday that the recent comments by the chief rabbi of Jerusalem, who said that Reform Jews were "worse than Holocaust deniers," could lead to threats and acts of violence against non-Orthodox Jews in Israel.

Jacobs added that it is "indefensible" that the senior Rabbi who made these comments, is receiving a salary from the Israeli government. "Although I defend Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar’s right to hold hateful, odious beliefs about me and the Reform Movement, what I find indefensible is that his salary is being paid by the Israeli government," Jacobs said in a statement.

He noted that "on Monday a 39 year-old resident of the ultra-orthodox city Bnai Brak was indicted for issuing death threats against me and my Israeli colleagues Rabbi Gilad Kariv and Anat Hoffman. Is anyone unclear as to where this man could have learned to hate Reform Jews?"

Jacobs' comments follow remarks from Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the chief rabbi of Jerusalem, earlier this week. Amar compared Reform Jews to holocaust deniers and said that "people shout about holocaust deniers in Iran - [Reform Jews] deny more than the Holocaust." 

A 39-year-old resident of the ultra-Orthodox town of Bnei Brak was indicted on Monday for issuing death threats against leaders of the Reform movement and for vandalizing a Reform synagogue in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ra’anana twice in the past few years.

According to the indictment presented to the Jerusalem District Court on Monday, the suspect is being charged with extortion by threat, vandalism and preparation of dangerous substances in six separate incidents, which took place between January 2014 and August 2017, two of them involving the Reform synagogue in Ra’anana.

On November 24, 2016, according to the indictment, the defendant issued threatening letters, all identical in content, to three prominent figures in the Reform movement: Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the congregational arm of the movement in North America; Kariv, executive director of the movement in Israel; and Hoffman, chair of Women of the Wall, the multi-denominational feminist prayer group, who also heads the Israel Religious Action Center, the advocacy arm of the Reform movement in Israel

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