Sephardi Chief Rabbi: Non-Orthodox Jews Are 'Digging Their Claws' Into Israel

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar yesterday slammed Reform and Conservative Jews, accusing them of "digging their claws into Israel" by trying to impose a more liberal lifestyle.

"They are digging their claws into the nation of Zion, and trying to impose the lifestyle of other nations on us," Amar wrote in a letter to other Israeli rabbis in honor of the onset of the Jewish month of Elul.

Alluding to the conversion bill, which the non-Orthodox movements oppose, Amar wrote: "They established legions of combatants in Israel, whose purpose is to remove Torah from Israel."

The "liberals and reformers ... have brought us to a low point in which violence is rampant, modesty is lacking and assimilation is high even in Israel," the letter said.

Amar added that he is shocked by the increasing violence, murders and lack of modesty. Above all, Amar said, the biggest problem threatening Israel is assimilation.

The Reform Movement said it would ask President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to object openly to Amar's letter and his "outrageous use of his public and state position to incite against Jewish communities."

The head of the Reform Movement, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, said Amar's statements "prove why Israeli society needs a wide variety of Jewish voices, including the important voice of Reform and Conservative Judaism, which would take the place of the ultra-Orthodox attempt to take over religion in Israel and turn it into one bullying, intolerant Judaism."

"The hundreds of non-Orthodox communities in Israel show that the Orthodox monopoly will collapse not only due to its corrupt conduct but especially because it has become irrelevant to a growing public," said Conservative Movement leader Yizhar Hess.