Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 3, 2023. In response, both Orthodox organizations wrote letters supporting Netanyahu and slamming The Jewish Agency. ATEF SAFADI/JNS
The Eretz HaKodesh and Coalition for Jewish Values organizations criticized a letter — written by The Jewish Federations of North America, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Hayesod and the World Zionist Organization — which expressed concerns over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government.
Netanyahu’s cabinet was sworn in last Thursday.
“It is our duty to share with you our deep concern regarding voices in the government on issues that could undermine the long-standing status quo on religious affairs that could affect the Diaspora,” the letter from the four major Jewish organizations stated.
They concluded by writing to Wilf that they “strongly encourage you to consider if you truly have the backing of those Jews most focused upon Israel, such as the World Zionist Organization voters and America’s rabbinic leaders, in future letters.”
Meanwhile, the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative/Masorti rabbis in the US, issued a letter on Wednesday blasting Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposed judicial reforms.
“We must do all we can to not allow the incoming government to damage the court for political gain,” the letter reads. “We are deeply alarmed by the attempted subversion of the authority of Israel’s High Court by newly appointed Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin and his government.”
The letter continues according to the JPost, “Israel flourishes as the Middle East’s only democracy, guaranteed and sustained by an independent High Court. The timing of this new bill is transparently self-serving for those in power and risks weakening the Jewish and democratic character of Israel. It is excruciating to see this government directly undermine the core values of democracy and religious freedom that we value so deeply.”
In response, both Orthodox organizations wrote letters supporting Netanyahu and slamming The Jewish Agency.
“It must be noted that these comments that have been made to you do not represent the voices of all Diaspora Jewry,” said the signed letter by Eretz HaKodesh, signed by Chairman Rabbi Pesach Lerner and delegate Stephen L. Rosedale.
“We wish to bring to your attention, as members of the Board of Governors of The Jewish Agency,” the Eretz HaKodesh letter continued, “that the letter that was sent to you was issued without any discussion amongst the members of the Board of Governors of The Jewish Agency or between the Board of Governors of The Jewish Agency and the national institutions. We deeply regret that the voices of Diaspora Jewry were used to express a position in Israel’s political discourse against the government, headed by you.” Israeli protesters march with banners and flags during a demonstration against the new government. The Coalition for Jewish Values sent an additional letter to Jewish Agency Board of Governors Chairman Mark Wilf, expressing its disappointment regarding the letter that was critical of the Netanyahu government. ILIA YEFIMOVICH/JNS
Lerner and Rosedale went on to request a joint meeting with Netanyahu and “prominent community leaders” from across the world who support his government.
The Eretz Hakodesh slate won nearly 20,000 votes in record-setting elections for the 38th World Zionist Congress.
The Coalition for Jewish Values sent an additional letter to Jewish Agency Board of Governors Chairman Mark Wilf, expressing its disappointment regarding the letter that was critical of the Netanyahu government.
“We are writing to express our concern and disappointment regarding the recent letter sent to Prime Minister Netanyahu by you and leadership of The Jewish Agency, the World Zionist Organization, Keren HaYesod and The Jewish Federations of North America,” said the Coalition for Jewish Values letter, signed by President Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld and Managing Director Rabbi Yaakov Menken.
“All of these bodies were chartered and are intended to represent all mainstream Jewish groups,” the letter continued. “Indeed, they are among the few Jewish organizations to welcome full diversity of opinion, providing space for internal debate and discussion.”
Schonfeld and Menken also criticized the letter for disparaging the religious “status quo agreement” by Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Agudath Israel, which set the tone for Jewish religious affairs in the State of Israel when it comes to conversion, the Law of Return, kashrut and other matters. The Coalition for Jewish Values letter said that Netanyahu was merely respecting a standard that has been in place since Israel’s independence.
“We strongly encourage you to consider if you truly have the backing of those Jews most focused upon Israel, such as the WZO voters and America’s rabbinic leaders, in future letters,” the Coalition for Jewish Values letter concludes.
Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate.