NY's Jewish Theological Seminary Head 'Alarmed' by Israel’s Jewish Nation-state Bill

Chancellor Arnold Eisen urges Israeli parliamentarians not to relegate country's minorities to second-class status.

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The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York has come out against Israel’s proposed nation-state bill, which would enshrine into law Israel’s status as Jewish state.

In a written statement Wednesday, Arnold Eisen, chancellor of Conservative Jewry’s flagship seminary, said that JTS was “alarmed” by the Knesset’s consideration of the bill.

“We hope that the State’s lawmakers will have the wisdom to affirm Israel’s character as a democratic Jewish State in a way that does not relegate Israeli Arabs and other minorities to second-class status,” Eisen said.

Those who back the controversial bill say it will help reinforce the Israel’s Jewish character. The bill’s critics, however, have called the it unnecessary and provocative and see it as threat to Israel’s democratic nature.

Eisen identified an additional concern with the bill, that it could have the effect of granting “one particular denomination of Judaism — Orthodoxy, as defined by a relatively small group of rabbis and politicians — official and permanent State recognition.”

He added: “We urge that this bill be withdrawn in its current form and the values of Judaism and democracy, along with a commitment to a Jewish homeland, be appropriately balanced.”

Israel’s Cabinet advanced the bill earlier this week. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to present a final version of the bill in the next few days. On Tuesday, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, who serves in a largely ceremonial post, came out strongly against the bill.