Rabbinical Assembly Leader Calls for Religious Pluralism in Israel
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Rabbinical Assembly Leader Calls for Religious Pluralism in Israel

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Rabbi Stanley S. Rabinowitz, of Washington, D.C., president of the Rabbinical Assembly, believes the people of Israel need “alternatives” to the rigid Orthodoxy that has become synonymous with a state religion in Israel.

In remarks prepared for delivery at the opening session of the Conservative rabbinical organization’s five-day convention here Sunday, Rabinowitz declared that “Israel harms itself when it denies to Conservative and Reform institutions the opportunity to reach out in influence.”

He asserted that there is no validity to the premise that Orthodoxy is the only “legitimate” expression of Jewish religion. “Not all Israelis can accept the rigidity which is the synonym for the official religion of Israel. The people of Israel need an option which alternatives to Orthodoxy offer its citizens.”

Rabinowitz charged that “Conservative synagogues and rabbis experience shameful discrimination (in Israel) highly inappropriate to a modern state and unworthy of 20th century democracy.” He said Reform groups suffer similar indignities in Israel. In that connection, he observed, “Whatever rights will be granted to non-Orthodox institutions will be granted to both Conservative and Reform or to neither. And if we allow ourselves to be trapped by a policy of divide and conquer, we will both be shunted aside.” He said that despite lack of governmental recognition, Conservative Judaism is growing in Israel where 23 Conservative congregations now function.

DEFENDS RIGHT TO DEBATE ISSUES

The rabbi urged American Jews to stand fast with Israel in the political sphere because “it is arrogant for American Jews, who bask in the warm security of the U.S., to advise concessions and consent to hazards for the people of Israel.” He said, however, that American Jewry had a right to debate the religious and social aspects of Israeli society.

Rabinowitz said the American Jewish leadership must continue to support morality in American foreign affairs and declared that “We must applaud the courageous manner in which the President of the United States has made concern for human rights a cornerstone of his foreign policy.” He also praised Carter’s definition of secure and recognized borders for Israel and urged rabbinical support of the President’s energy conservation program as the best answer to the Arab boycott.

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