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PORTSIDE  December 2010, Week 3

PORTSIDE December 2010, Week 3

Subject:

World and U.S. Rabbis Denounce Israeli Rabbi Edict

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Date:

Thu, 16 Dec 2010 22:20:42 -0500

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World and U.S. Rabbis Denounce Israeli Rabbi Edict

* World rabbis denounce edict forbidding Jews from renting
  homes to Arabs (Harrier Sherwood from Jerusalem, in the
  Guardian (UK))
* U.S. Rabbis Offer Rare Rebuke of Israeli Edict (Josh
  Nathan-Kazis in the Jewish Daily Forward)

==========

World rabbis denounce edict forbidding Jews from renting
homes to Arabs

	Letter signed by 900 rabbis around the world
	describes ruling backed by many Israeli rabbis as a
	'painful distortion' of Judaism

by Harrier Sherwood in Jerusalem

Guardian (UK)

December 15, 2010

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/15/rabbis-denounce-arab-rental-ban

More than 900 rabbis from around the world have signed a
letter expressing "great shock and pain" at a ruling backed
by scores of Israeli rabbis forbidding Jews from renting or
selling property to non-Jews.

The letter describes the ruling as a "painful distortion of
our tradition" and a "desecration of God's name" and appeals
to Israeli rabbis to "take a public stand and oppose those
who misrepresent our tradition".

Most of the signatories are from the US, but they include
rabbis from many countries, among them the UK.

The ruling, which originated with Shmuel Eliyahu, the
municipal rabbi of the city of Safed, has caused controversy
and division within Israel. It has also been strongly
criticised by Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu,
and president, Shimon Peres.

But it attracted widespread support among nationalist
rabbis. It is mainly targeted at Arab citizens of Israel but
also the country's growing refugee and economic-migrant
community.

The global signatories, who describe themselves as Rabbis
Against Religious Discrimination, address their letter to
"our rabbinic colleagues in Israel" to whom they are turning
"at a time of crisis".

It says: "The attempt to root discriminatory policies based
on religion or ethnicity in Torah is a painful distortion of
our tradition. Am Yisrael [the people of Israel] know the
sting of discrimination, and we still bear the scars of
hatred."

It adds that Jews in the diaspora "struggle to maintain a
strong, loving relationship" with Israel. "Every day that
challenge grows more difficult. Many of our congregants love
Israel and want nothing more than the safety and security of
the Jewish homeland, but for a growing number of Jews in
America this relationship to Israel cannot be assumed."

The ruling provides "justification for anti-Jewish and anti-
Israel sentiment across the world".

The letter, sponsored by the New Israel Fund, follows the
denunciation last week of the ruling by Rabbi Yosef Shlomo
Elyashiv, head of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox
establishment. "I've said for some time that there are
rabbis who must have their pens taken away from them," he
said.

There have been calls for rabbis who backed the ruling and
whose salaries are paid from public funds to be disciplined
or removed from their posts. Israel's attorney-general has
described the ruling as "inappropriate public conduct".

Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial centre, also
strongly criticised the ruling.

[Harriet Sherwood is the Guardian's Jerusalem correpondent.
She was previously Foreign Editor and Home Editor.]

==========

U.S. Rabbis Offer Rare Rebuke of Israeli Edict

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Jewish Daily Forward

Published December 15, 2010, issue of December 24, 2010.

http://www.forward.com/articles/133983/

An edict signed by dozens of Israeli rabbis barring the sale
or rental of homes to non-Jews in Israel has led to a rare
consensus among American rabbis, who have issued a nearly
unanimous condemnation of the ban.

Statements by the American Modern Orthodox and Conservative
rabbinic associations, and by the spokesman for an American
ultra-Orthodox umbrella group, all denounce the Israeli
rabbis' directive. So, too, does an online petition signed
by more than 900 rabbis, most of them affiliated with non-
Orthodox denominations.

Controversial proclamations by Israeli rabbis are not
unheard of, but this sort of broad American rabbinic
response is rare. Now, it appears that the collective
response has reached a tipping point, at which so many
American rabbis have spoken against the edict that others
may feel compelled to concur.

"The halachic issues here are complex," said Rabbi Shmuel
Goldin, first vice president of the Rabbinical Council of
America, the largely Modern Orthodox rabbinic group. "But a
blanket statement that singles out a certain population and
says `Don't rent to them; don't sell to them' in such a
blanket fashion is something that struck a very raw nerve."

The Israeli letter was drafted in support of an effort by
the chief rabbi of Safed to bar home rentals to Arabs.
Tensions have run high in recent months between ultra-
Orthodox and Arab students in that northern Israeli city.
Exactly how many rabbis signed the edict is unclear.
Although some right-wing Israeli news outlets reported that
the letter had 300 signatories, other news organizations
pegged the number at fewer than 100. Regardless, the edict
drew attention in the Israeli and international press
because dozens of those who signed were municipal rabbis
employed by the government.

Israel's leading Lithuanian Haredi leader, Rabbi Yosef
Shalom Elyashiv, refused to sign the letter, as did,
according to one report, Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader
of Israel's Shas party. The letter was condemned by Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In America, rabbinic opposition to the letter came quickly.
An online petition for rabbis, posted by the New Israel Fund
on December 10, had received 914 signatures by December 15.

"Statements like these do great damage to our efforts to
encourage people to love and support Israel," the NIF
statement read. "They communicate to our congregants that
Israel does not share their values, and they promote
feelings of alienation and distancing."

Signatories of the NIF petition included Rabbi Julie
Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Conservative
movement's Rabbinical Assembly, and Rabbi David Saperstein,
director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Most signatories appeared to be members of the Reform,
Conservative and Reconstructionist movements, with a few
notable exceptions - including prominent New York, left-wing
Orthodox rabbis Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of
Riverdale and Yeshivat Chovevei Torah rabbinical school, and
Marc Angel of Congregation Shearith Israel.

Some Orthodox rabbis said that the sponsorship of the
petition by the NIF, which is identified with left-wing
causes, may have discouraged the participation of rabbis who
otherwise might have agreed with the petition's sentiment.

The RCA's statement, released December 14, criticized the
Israeli rabbis' letter in somewhat gentler terms. "We are
surely sympathetic to the impulse to protect a Jewish
community in the face of intermarriage, communal conflict,
or unsafe neighborhoods," the statement read. "It is our
view that in spite of the concerns of the authors of the
statement, it is wrong and unacceptable to advocate blanket
exclusionary policies directed against minorities of other
faiths or ethnic groups."

Goldin said that the RCA felt compelled to speak because,
unlike an off-the-cuff comment by Yosef - famous for making
provocative remarks - the Israeli rabbis' edict was a formal
statement of Jewish law. "That is what drew our attention -
that once such a formal statement is issued, we felt that it
couldn't be left on the record without a response," he said.

The RCA's statement came hours after the posting of a
translated version of a letter opposing the edict, written
by prominent centrist Orthodox rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein,
who is American but lives in Israel, to a widely read
Orthodox blog. Some observers saw the RCA's response as a
gambit to protect the group from recriminations for not
speaking out on the issue.

"They came up with it because they had no choice, because
everyone else was already speaking out, and they felt, `We
better say something so people don't think we're in favor of
this,'" said Angel, a former president of the RCA and a
frequent critic of the group.

"They're facing the reality, political realities, that this
is not an issue that you want to have your name stamped on,"
Mendy Ganchrow, former president of the Orthodox Union and a
retired executive vice president of the Religious Zionists
of America, said of the RCA.

In an e-mail, Rabbi Avi Shafran, a spokesman for the
American ultra-Orthodox umbrella group Agudath Israel of
America, said that his organization concurred with rabbis
Elyashiv and Yosef. "The rabbis who signed the letter
[banning the rentals] were simply misguided," Shafran wrote.

Though the mainstream American rabbinical associations
appear to oppose the Israeli rabbis' letter, at least one
prominent Orthodox rabbi was sympathetic. "I think it's part
of a concern - and I believe a rightful one - that there's a
war going on, and we're trying our best to maintain
normalcy," said Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a rosh yeshiva, or
dean, of the rabbinical school at Yeshiva University and a
major rabbinic arbiter.

[Josh Nathan-Kazis, Forward Fellow, joined the Forward in a
full-time capacity in March 2010. Previously, he worked as
the editor of New Voices, an independent national magazine
for Jewish college students. His work has also appeared in
Tablet and Haaretz. Josh Nathan-Kazis can be reached at
[log in to unmask] ]

==========

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