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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Middle East


US Rabbis Against Religious Discrimination

December 14, 2010 - 1:43 PM | by: Karen Liel

The mounting controversy in Israel regarding the latest religious ruling issued by prominent Rabbis to forbid Jews from selling or leasing apartments to Arabs – seems to have made its way overseas.

Almost 700 rabbis from congregations across the world have signed a petition funded by the New Israel Fund, calling on their rabbinic colleagues in Israel to oppose the latest ruling, describing it as no less then “Chillul Hashem”- a desecration of God’s name. 

The international Rabbis, including Orthodox, Conservative and Reformist leaders from Jewish communities mainly in the U.S., describe the latest ruling as a distortion of the Jewish tradition. “Am Yisrael [the people of Israel] knows the sting of discrimination and we still bear the scars of hatred”, they say in the petition.

Furthermore, they claim such statements provide justification for anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiments across the world, damaging their ongoing efforts to encourage people to love and support Israel.

The 50 Israeli Rabbis who initiated the ruling last week suffered a major blow Sunday when Senior Sephardic spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef denounced the ruling and refused to add his signature. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and other ministers have also distanced themselves from the ruling which is considered by many racist and immoral. The Israeli Attorney General’s office stated on Thursday that it would look into possible criminal aspects of such a religious ruling.

However, the Rabbis don’t plan on giving up so easily. In an effort to enforce their ruling, they encourage the neighbors and acquaintances of a Jew who forbiddingly sells or rents property to an Arab to distance themselves from him, refrain from doing business with him, deny him the right to read from the Torah, and ostracize him “until he goes back on this harmful deed.” They even opened up a call center where one can dial and “tell on” whoever is not abiding to the new ruling. They would then verify the details and do everything in their power “to prevent the disaster”.

The Ultra Orthodox Jewish community in Israel is known as a very segregated and disciplined one, and this mechanism could therefore deter even the few brave individuals who would consider defying the religious ruling and renting their homes to Arabs.


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