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US rabbis speak out against rabbis' letter

Close to 500 religious leaders from all spectrums of Judaism sign petition opposing land sale, rental discrimination

Akiva Novick
Published: 12.14.10, 14:34 / Israel Jewish Scene

The storm surrounding the rabbis' letter continues: It started with hundreds of rabbis signing a manifesto prohibiting Israeli Jews from renting out apartments to non-Jews which was soon followed by a counter letter signed by renowned haredi rabbis. Now it’s the turn of rabbis from across the Atlantic to send in their response.

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Some 490 rabbis from throughout the US, orthodox, conservative and reform have signed a new petition which will be presented to the Israeli chief rabbis on Tuesday. The petition, organized by the New Israel Fund, says that "statements like these do great damage to our efforts to encourage people to love and support Israel.


"The attempt to root discriminatory policies based on religion or ethnicity in Torah is a painful distortion of our tradition. Am Yisrael knows the sting of discrimination, and we still bear the scars of hatred. When those who represent the official rabbinic leadership of the State of Israel express such positions, we are distressed by this Chillul HaShem, desecration of God’s name."


The petition comes in response to the manifesto published last week in which hundreds of rabbis called on their followers not to rent out or sell apartments to non-Jews, and which roused harsh responses including opposition from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.


Since its publication, five rabbis have removed their signatures from the document, but until now, no major counter response has been noted.


Over the last week, attempts were made to organize a counter-petition of orthodox rabbis, but these failed due to lack of available signatories, which led to the decision to turn to leading rabbis, mostly reform in the US.


Among those that have expressed their support are the leader of New York's Jewish community and Rabbi Marc Angel, former president of the Rabbinical Council of America, one of the most important orthodox rabbis in the US together with modern orthodox Rabbi Yitz Greenberg and Rabbi Paul Menitoff, a leader of the reform movement in the US.


But that isn't all the New Israel Fund is planning, they are set to appeal to Israeli rabbis of all factions in a bid to get at least 1000 signatures on their petition.



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