Rejecting Religious Racism
In early December a number of rabbis in Israel including several government-salaried municipal clergy signed a psak halakha, a decision in Jewish law, forbidding the sale or rental of property to non-Jews in Israel. NIF responded quickly, and within a week, one thousand rabbis of all denominations across-the-globe joined together to denounce the ruling and to encourage their colleagues in Israel to take a strong public stand with them.
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לא תטה משפט גר . . . וזכרת כי עבד היית במצרים
Do not pervert the rights of the stranger . . . and remember that you were once a slave in Egypt (Deuteronomy 24:17-18)
To our rabbinic colleagues in Israel,
We, rabbis serving in congregations and communities across the world, are turning to you for your assistance and leadership at a time of crisis. 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. The attempt to root discriminatory policies based on religion or ethnicity in Torah is a painful distortion of our tradition. Am Yisrael knows the sting of discrimination, and we still bear the scars of hatred. When those who represent the official rabbinic leadership of the State of Israel express such positions, we are distressed by this Chillul HaShem, desecration of God’s name.
This degradation of the Torah threatens both Israel and our communities. We struggle to maintain a strong, loving relationship between Jews outside of Israel and the Jewish state. Every day, that challenge grows more difficult. Many of our congregants love Israel and want nothing more than the safety and security of the Jewish homeland, but for a growing number of Jews in America this relationship to Israel cannot be assumed.
Statements like these do great damage to our efforts to encourage people to love and support Israel. They communicate to our congregants that Israel does not share their values, and they promote feelings of alienation and distancing. Further, these attacks on the principles of our prophets, which form the basis of Israel’s law and society, provide justification for anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment across the world.
Many of you have raised your voices in the past, and have dedicated your lives to pursuing a just society in Israel. You have taught us that the discriminatory attitude expressed in that halakhic ruling does not reflect the belief of the majority of rabbis and Torah scholars or the people of Israel, and for that reason, we turn to you. 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.
בברכה, שבמהרה ציון במשפט תפדה