Religion is not a political tool – editorial

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In the latest example of how the Chief Rabbinate lost touch with reality, Wednesday – the eve of Yom Kippur – the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar issued a ruling ending a long-standing custom of women to stand by. immerse in a ritual mikvah bath the day before the fast. .

Amar made the announcement in a letter he sent to Rabbi David Banino, head of the mikvah department of the Jerusalem religious council, telling him that mikvah directors and attendants should not allow women to immerse themselves in the mikvaot they operate, unless it is for the purity of the Jewish family.

The ruling effectively excluded married, single, divorced and widowed women who wanted to immerse themselves in a mikvah for spiritual purposes before Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

The motivation behind Amar’s decision was what he described as “appalling promiscuity”. He explained that by now “we have come to such a horrible situation that things that we were embarrassed to think about in private and in inner sanctuaries have become a symbol of freedom and progress.”

As well as being illegal for discriminating against women, Amar’s decision is an insult to women who wish to immerse themselves in a mikvah as part of their spiritual growth unrelated to their menstrual cycle.

“It is unfortunate that on the eve of Yom Kippur, a time when the Jews unite in reflection and humility, the religious council of Jerusalem chooses to divide the Jews,” said the director of the advisory body. of religious services Itim Rabbi Seth Farber.

Although unfortunate, Amar’s decision is not surprising. There is a tendency within the ultra-Orthodox-led Chief Rabbinate to reject any religious act that does not meet its strict standards. This applies to kashrut laws, the participation of women in religious leadership roles, and the way progressive Jews – mostly from reformist and conservative movements – are continually ignored at the Western Wall.

Amar is the same rabbi who has repeatedly brought his followers to the egalitarian Kotel prayer square to pray and prevent progressive Jews from being able to use the site.

Amar was also the rabbi who in 2017 said Reform Jews “deny more than Holocaust deniers”.

“Today there was a hearing at the Kotel on the petition of the cursed wicked who commit all the iniquities in the world against the Torah – they even marry Jews and non-Jews,” Amar said at the time.

This is why it was so disturbing to see Minister of Religious Services Matan Kahana meeting with Amar on Friday with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau. The reason he met Amar – a former Chief Rabbi – and not with Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef is because Yosef allegedly boycotted Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina Party Minister due to his reform of Kashrut and Kashrut. other future projects for the rabbinate.

Kahana can meet whoever he wants. A photo of the meeting, however, was particularly disturbing. It showed Kahana kissing Amar’s hand. Hadn’t Kahana read what Amar had said about his fellow Jews just a few years ago? Wasn’t he aware of the rabbi’s controversial decision to prevent women from immersing themselves in the mikvah on the pretext that it was promiscuous?

It is time for the government to break the grip of these rabbis and their ultra-Orthodox bosses on religious life in Israel. The coalition led by Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is the perfect government to do this. They have no haredi partners and while the two cling to the hope that the haredi parties of Shas and Unified Torah Judaism will one day enter their government, they should not let that hope hold them back. hostage, they and Israel.

Today, on the eve of Sukkot, is the perfect time for the government to start implementing these changes. Sukkot is a feast that shows the beauty of Judaism; it represents our understanding of how houses are temporary, our concern for the environment, and commemorates how God sheltered the Israelites when they left Egypt.

Now is the time to show the Israelis that Judaism is not a political tool in the hands of people whose only interest is to exclude those with whom they do not agree. It is time to stop the politicization of our religion.


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