Fury as Israel labels US Jews second class

A law labelling most American Jews as inadequately Jewish is throwing .strain on relations between Israel and the powerful American Jewish community.

The point at issue is the right to convert someone to Judaism. A law now passing through the Israeli Knesset, which gives Orthodox rabbis a monopoly over conversion in Israel itself, has provoked a furious reaction from America's three million Jews who go to a synagogue but are not Orthodox.

"American Jews understand that the State of Israel is casting doubt upon their rabbis and, accordingly, upon the Jewish communities those rabbis serve," says Joseph Alpher, director of the Israel/Middle East office of the American Jewish Community. He says that already American Jews, who go to Reform or Conservative rather than Orthodox synagogues, are beginning to refuse to contribute to Israel, where the majority of Jews are Orthodox.

Ironically, the present Bill going through the Knesset with the support of the government is the result of a compromise which was supposed to conciliate American Jews. It is, in effect, a watered-down version of a Bill under which the 200,000 or more Jews converted by a Reform or Conservative rabbi in the US would no longer have been recognised as Jews in Israel. "The way Reform rabbis convert in the US is a joke," a senior member of the religious party Shas was quoted as saying. "You buy a certificate for $20 [pounds 12.50]."

The new law will only derecognise Reform or Conservative conversions carried out in Israel itself. Conversions in the US, Britain and the rest of the world will still be recognised. Even Orthodox rabbis see that derecognition of the right to convert by most American rabbis would lead to anger in the US, but American Jews still consider the legislation a slap in the face.

The conflict is also having important political consequences. Mr Alpher argues that the US Congress has already set a precedent by cutting aid to Israel. Despite the power of the Jewish political lobby, he says American politicians notice when the US Jewish Community is less active in its support for Israel.

He says: "It becomes easier for the US administration to put pressure on Israel."

In practice there is little sign of this. The American-Jewish community has always been one of the major pillars of the Democratic party. But it has exercised unprecedented influence in President Clinton's administrations."In the National Security Council seven out of 11 top staffers are Jews," says the Israeli daily Ma'ariv.

But Israel has few allies apart from the US. In the UN vote condemning the construction of the Jewish settlement at Har Homa in Jerusalem, the only country joining Israel and the US voting against the condemnation was Micronesia.

Leaders of the US Reform and Conservative movements will arrive in Israel this week to try to work out a compromise. But it will be difficult to dilute the message to American Jews, which one fundraiser described as being: "You are not as good a Jew as the Orthodox."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee