Diaspora Rabbis Urge Israeli Colleagues to Speak Out on Rental Ruling
12/14/10
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WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Over 750 rabbis and cantors of all denominations signed a letter urging their Israeli colleagues to speak out against a ruling by 39 municipal rabbis banning renting to non-Jews.

"The recent halakhic ruling from community rabbis in Israel that forbids leasing apartments to non-Jews has caused great shock and pain in our communities," said the letter, initiated by the New Israel Fund. "The attempt to root discriminatory policies based on religion or ethnicity in Torah is a painful distortion of our tradition."

The letter, open for two days for signatures and released on Tuesday, concludes: "For the sake of our people, our Torah, and Israel, we beseech you to take a strong public stand and oppose those who misrepresent our tradition."

Signatories include rabbis and cantors from the Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Orthodox streams, including Rabbi Marc D. Angel, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel, the historic Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in New York City; Rabbi Michael Lerner editor of Tikkun, a progressive Jewish and interfaith magazine based in Berkeley, California; Rabbi Leonard S. Levin, Jewish Theological Seminary Of America; Rabbi Rachel Cowan, director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality; and Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, the first woman to become a Reconstructionist rabbi when she was ordained in 1974.

The bulk of the signatories are from the United States, with significant numbers from Canada and Britain and a smattering from small communities.

A number of rabbinical leaders in Israel have condemned the original ruling as has Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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.

Last Update:

12/16/2010 - 15:25

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It's easy to preach from a land were there have never been anti-Jewish riots. In the mixed cities of Israel there have been, http://www.israeltoday.co.il/default.aspx?tabid=178&nid=17342 http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3699847,00.html and, if current social trends continue, thre's no reason to think there won't be more. The American Rabbi's response, is at best a projection of American racial tension, far out of context in the Israeli-Arab conflict. But if, as you report, this response is backed by the New Israel Fund, it's probably not that naive, rather a component of a political agenda, that has little to do with inter-ethnic ethics.
  Surely this is being done as a political gesture -   The fact that Marav Rav Shteinman, shlita, came out against the ban...characterizing it as racist...is meaningful in the context of the ban's authors - it is monumentally important, because it came from a respected sage in the "frume velt," acting within the dalet amos of Halacha.     However, the fact that hundreds of clergy from movements that do not abide by or respect traditional halachic Yiddishkeit won't mean anything to the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Yidden.   L'havdil, it's like having hundreds of Unitarian Ministers sign a document criticizing an edict of Roman Catholic Bishops.  The collective response would be "so what!    

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