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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
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

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments