Letter: Israel’s Non-Orthodox Rabbis

Letter: Israel’s Non-Orthodox Rabbis

I often receive appeals on behalf of impoverished Orthodox families in Israel. Occasionally, I donate a few dollars. I am comfortable with my choice, but I am dismayed with Raanan Isseroff’s ire over private individuals partially funding non-Orthodox rabbis in Israel (Letters, Jan. 13).

Isseroff’s letter expressing his indignation is full of inaccuracies and baseless charges. Rabbi David Geffen (“What Israelis Face as 2016 Winds Down,” Dec. 23) didn’t say most Israeli soldiers are left-wingers not trusted by Israelis. He merely noted that two-thirds of Israeli soldiers are neither religious nor from the West Bank. This is as expected: most Israelis are secular and live within the Green Line. Most soldiers who liberated the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967 were probably non-Orthodox people and were not the children of Jews whom the Jordanians had killed or driven from their homes.

Isseroff refers to the Green Line as a border. It is not. The Green Line marks the place of the 1949 armistice. The Arab nations that attacked Israel in 1948 would not negotiate on borders or anything else that would acknowledge Israel’s existence. Of course, after Israel defeated Egypt, Syria and Jordan in 1967, the aggressors who lost the Six-Day War decided the Green Line was sacrosanct.

Isseroff’s contentions aside, the Conservative groups with which I am involved have been protesting the U.N. resolutions that deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. I suspect that the same is true of the other groups he castigates. And we should recall that there have been Orthodox groups (such as Neturei Karta and the Satmar hasidim) who opposed the establishment of the state and who have expressed support for Israel’s enemies.

Israel is the world’s only Jewish state. Her population must retain its Jewish majority. That will entail converting the hundreds of thousands of Russian immigrants who have chosen to live in Israel but who are not halachically Jewish. It also means efforts must be made to reintroduce Jewish observance to Israel’s largely secular population.

Too often, the official state rabbinate has made unreasonable demands on Russians seeking to convert and has antagonized secular people who must deal with the rabbinate on issues of marriage and divorce or while making funeral arrangements for loved ones. Outreach efforts by Conservative and Reform congregations provide valuable resources for those seeking to return to Jewish observance and should be supported by the nation-state of the Jews.

— Toby F. Block, Atlanta

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