Chief Rabbi Lau, Who Slammed Bennett, Also Visited U.S. non-Orthodox School

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Israeli Chief Rabbi David Lau.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau. A representative of the only original Judaism?Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau visited a Conservative day school in the United States just six weeks before criticizing Education Minister Naftali Bennett for doing the same.

On Wednesday Lau slammed Bennett for going to the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan, which is affiliated with the Conservative movement.

But in October, Lau visited Washington’s Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital. It is nondenominational and, as in Conservative Jewish day schools, girls and boys study Jewish text together, and girls as well as boys lead prayers and read publicly from the Torah. Its girls lead prayers and read the Torah from the podium wrapped in prayer shawls. Some of the girls even wear a kippa regularly.

This wasn’t the only Liberal community Lau visited in the United States as chief rabbi. Yet this week he blasted Bennett over the issue and called his visit to the Conservative school “unacceptable.”

The Conservative Movement reacted with anger, stressing that on his visit Lau met with declared non-Orthodox Jewish figures with ties to non-Orthodox movements. The Jewish Federations and Reform Movement also protested.

The Conservative Rabbinical Assembly issued a statement praising Bennett’s visit and encouraging Lau to follow his example.

Lau says in response that he met mainly Jews of a “mixed background,” mostly from Open Orthodoxy.

The uproar was sparked by Lau’s statements to Kol Hai on Wednesday morning, in which he castigated Bennett for visiting the Conservative Solomon Schechter School in New York earlier this week. Bennett posted a video clip on Twitter showing the reception he had received at the school.

Lau said that Bennett, who is also Diaspora affairs minister, should not have come to “a place that openly belongs to groups you know don’t respect ‘klal yisrael’ (the Jewish people as a whole).” He suggested asking Bennett whether he had consulted a rabbi beforehand. “I fear he didn’t, because this conduct is certainly unacceptable to ‘klal yisrael.’”