Rabbi Barry Schlesinger, who heads a Conservative synagogue in Jerusalem, goes “undercover” at a conference held by the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Shlomo Amar, on the “threat” of recognizing non-Orthodox rabbis in Israel. The American-born “Rav Barry,” who was the much beloved interim rabbi at my own synagogue last year, sports a suitably rabbinic white beard, so it was easy for him to pass:
The rhetoric was militaristic. Rabbi Amar encouraged the rabbis to stand in front of the open Ark and to pray for the nullification of the “edict” [allowing Conservative and Reform rabbis to be paid by local municpalities]; “to wage war” against those whose sole intention is to have the people drink “polluted waters” and to bring Israelis down to the non-Orthodox “pit of spiritual descent.”
After delivering tirade after tirade about the dangers of non-Orthodox Judaism in Israel, the rabbis charged each other with the objective of “guarding the vineyard of the House of Israel.” But, to guard from whom? From people like me, the so-called trespassers who aren’t worthy of planting anything in that metaphoric vineyard of Judaism? These angry, rejecting diatribes continued for an hour, and were hard to absorb.