An ultra-orthodox Jew is restrained by a Border Policeman
An ultra-orthodox Hassidic Jew is restrained by a Border Policeman as he screams against a group of Reform and Conservative rabbis holding prayers at the Western Wall. (photo credit:REUTERS)


In the latest row reflecting the Jewish inter-denominational divide, the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday condemned an Israeli government minister and a parliamentarian – both of whom are ultra-Orthodox – for making derogatory remarks about Reform Jews.

Earlier on Thursday, the Reform Movement urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to publicly repudiate comments attributed to Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay of the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic Shas movement.

During a discussion about the Women of the Wall controversy, Azoulay was quoted by the daily Israel Hayom as saying that Reform Judaism “is a disaster for the Jewish people.”

The Reform Movement responded by accusing Azoulay of “causing harm to millions of Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora.”

“A similar statement about any other group from among the Jewish people would not be accepted with such aplomb,” the Reform movement said.

The story was initially reported by Israel Radio.

The influential American Jewish organization called on Azoulay to “swiftly and unequivocally apologize for his deeply hurtful, spurious assault on the Reform movement.”

Azoulay was not the only religious politician in Israel to raise the hackles of American Jewish observers on Thursday. MK Yisrael Eichler of the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi United Torah Judaism parliamentary faction also denounced Women of the Wall, an organization agitating for equal rights of worship for women at Judaism’s holiest site.

Eichler was reported to have likened the group to the arsonists who are alleged to have set fire to the Church of the Multiplication in northern Israel.

According to the Haredi news site Kikar Hashabat, the UTJ lawmaker wrote a letter to Netanyahu demanding that he condemn Women of the Wall, “which has shocked the Jewish world by desecrating the Torah during the month of Tammuz.”

Eichler was referring to a Thursday morning prayer service held by Women of the Wall during which it once again flouted a religious edict banning the feminist organization from using a Torah scroll to hold a congregational worship.

“The lawless individuals who brought harm upon the holy Kotel are no less dangerous than the criminals who did damage to a Christian site near Lake Kinneret,” Eichler said.

“The denigration of Jewish religious observance and practice by any Israeli government representative is inappropriate,” said ADL chief Abe Foxman. “Coming from the minister for religious affairs, such offensive comments only serve to widen and deepen divisions among Jews and set back efforts to promote Jewish religious inclusiveness, and MK Eichler’s outrageous and highly offensive comparison of the Women of the Wall to individuals responsible for a hate crime – coming on the heels of Minister Azoulay’s statement – only fuels that growing divide.”

“Minister Azoulay and MK Eichler must swiftly and unequivocally apologize for their deeply hurtful spurious assaults on Reform Jews and the Women of the Wall,” Foxman said. “Their comments are an affront to millions of Jews in Israel and around the world. It is imperative that the government of Israel engage in sustained and intensified efforts to ensure that all Jews can feel at home and comfortable in Israel, regardless of belief or denominational affiliation. Israel and the Jewish people will be better off once all Jews and their sense of Judaism are equally respected and tolerated.”

As reported by The Jerusalem Post