Local leaders slam rabbis’ ban on renting to non-Jews
MetroWest's Israel rep delivers statement to Knesset caucus
December 15, 2010
Local Jewish leaders joined rabbis and cantors around the country in condemning a ruling by 39 Israeli municipal rabbis banning Jews from renting to non-Jews.
A number of rabbinical leaders in Israel have condemned the original ruling, as has Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
All object to a ruling that says Jews who are renting or considering selling to non-Jews or Arabs should be shunned and not be called to the Torah for an aliya.
Locally, United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ issued a statement condemning the “discriminatory decree” and urging the Israeli government “to take consequential action against these rabbis” (see sidebar).
The UJC MetroWest statement, signed by its president and top professional officer, called the ruling “yet another expression of the increasing discrimination against non-Jews by state-employed rabbis.”
Amir Shacham, who heads UJC MetroWest's Jerusalem office, participated Monday in a meeting of the Knesset's pluralism and civil rights caucus examining the issue. Attendees included about 15 Knesset members from various parties, as well as representatives of grass roots civil rights organizations and rabbis from the Modern Orthodox and liberal movements, according to Shacham. Shacham presented the UJC MetroWest statement to the caucus.
"I was the only representative of Diaspora Jewry, and I told the forum that it is important for everyone to know that we care much about the future health and strength of the Jewish democratic state and not just about conversion and 'who is a Jew' issues," Shacham told NJJN in an email. "Such acts of discrimination in the name of the Halacha are unacceptable and humiliating to us as committed Jews and lovers of Israel."
Stanley Stone, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey in Scotch Plains, said that in his personal opinion, the rabbis’ statement banning Jews from selling property to non-Jews did not reflect the opinion of the majority of rabbis in Israel.
“In all societies, there are people with different perspectives,” he said, “but I would call upon other rabbis — as many have done — to refute what they have said.
“I am not a rabbi or a Torah scholar,” added Stone, “but I don’t believe that this is what Torah Judaism or the State of Israel are all about, and they have misrepresented both. It’s unfortunate that they have received the coverage that they did.”
Over 800 rabbis and cantors of all denominations signed a separate letter urging their Israeli colleagues to speak out against the ruling.
The letter, initiated by the New Israel Fund, described the Israeli rabbis’ decree “a painful distortion of our tradition.”
The letter — at www.ipetitions.com/petition/rabbisagainstracism — was open for two days for signatures and was released on Dec. 14. The bulk of the signatories are from the United States, with significant numbers from Canada and Britain.
The Israeli attorney general is looking into whether the rabbis who ruled against renting to non-Jews broke the law in their capacity as government employees.
With reporting by JTA.
A ‘discriminatory decree’
United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ condemns the discriminatory decree signed by dozens of rabbis in Israel that forbids their followers to rent homes or sell their property to non-Jews. We applaud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres for fiercely denouncing the rabbis and declaring the ruling stands in opposition to Judaism’s values and teachings.
The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, signed on May 14, 1948, unequivocally affirms that “The State of Israel…will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex.” As a democracy, Israel has an obligation to ensure that the basic human rights of all Israeli citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike, are protected.
This ruling is yet another expression of the increasing discrimination against non-Jews by state-employed rabbis. We urge the government to take consequential action against these rabbis and ensure they are disciplined within the fullest extent of the law or personnel code. We also urge religious leaders to publicly condemn these inequitable decrees and to reaffirm Israel’s Jewish and democratic values.
Gary O. Aidekman
Max L. Kleinman
Executive vice president