New York – ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman called for an apology on Wednesday after Yisrael Beytenu MK David Rotem called Reform Judaism “not Jewish” and “another religion” during a committee discussion on Tuesday.
Rotem, who is Orthodox and the Chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, made the remarks during a discussion on changing Israel’s child adoption law.
In an open letter to Rotem, Foxman wrote: “We are deeply disturbed by reports of comments attributed to you about the Reform movement ‘not being Jewish.’ Such views are inappropriate, offensive and unjustified.”
Foxman added that this kind of “rejectionist” rhetoric “fosters divisiveness and feelings of alienation toward elements of Israeli society.”
Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Reform movement in Israel, called on Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to reprimand Rotem.
“An assertion such as this makes it impossible for lawmaker Rotem to continue to chair discussions on sensitive issues such as conversion, who is a Jew and other topics that are associated with religion and state matters, and the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora,” Kariv said.
A statement from the Reform movement in Israel pointed out that use of the expression “another religion” was deliberate, since Israel’s Law of Return uses the same term to exclude non-Jews from making aliyah.
By using the term, the statement said, Rotem is saying Reform Jews have no place in Israel.
The leadership of the Conservative movement — including Rabbi Julie Schonfeld of the Rabbinical Assembly and Rabbi Steven Wernick of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism — in a statement Wednesday lamented “the utter lack of leadership that makes these outrages so frequent and undermines the very aspirations that are the foundations of Judaism and the Jewish state.”
Saying “The Jewishness of the Reform Movement is beyond question and in no need of defense,” the statement called on the government of Israel to censure Rotem and remove him from leadership roles.