Shas leader: Modern Orthodox communities are ‘borderline Reform’

Shas party leader and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri lashed out recently at “liberal” streams of Israeli Orthodox Judaism, calling them “borderline Reform.”

Deri spoke at a conference earlier this month of the ultra-Orthodox rabbinic organization Benoam.

“Anyone who knows how synagogues are run over there [in the modern Orthodox community], or the conduct of the prayers, I don’t want to say too much, but these are very significant changes,” Deri charged, clarifying he was referring to “knit kippa” wearers, a Hebrew term for adherents of modern Orthodoxy, as distinct from the black skullcaps favored by the ultra-Orthodox community.

“Even the ‘knit kippot’ today, as some know even in very large communities, mainly in the center of the country, they’re already borderline Reform,” he said in the footage obtained by Channel 2 news.

“It’s true, there are more kippot” in these communities than in American Reform synagogues, Deri went on. “It looks different, it’s more Israeli. But it’s still borderline Reform,” he repeated.

Rabbi David Stav, cofounder and chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical organization. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Deri’s directed his comments at rabbis who belong to the Tzohar organization, most of them state-appointed city and council rabbis who nevertheless have sought to create a more welcoming and open state rabbinate.

The Tzohar rabbis, he noted, were at the forefront in the battle against the Shas-backed conversion law that seeks to further restrict access to state-recognized conversions in Israel to rabbinate-approved rabbinic courts.

“Together and in collaboration with the Reform, because they know their intention is to destroy [the rabbinate], they benefited from the baseness of others who were slandering the rabbinate and searching for faults in it,” he told the rabbinic group.

He went on to criticize Tzohar’s policy of refusing pay for weddings, one of several measures the rabbis of the group have undertaken to be more welcoming to non-observant Israeli couples.

“They [do] everything for free, welcoming, lenient and all that, but we all know the truth,” he said.

The Tzohar organization refused to respond to Deri’s comments, telling Channel 2 that “the things that were said, and the person who said them, are not worthy of a response.”

But the news channel cited one official close to the group railing against Deri. “This convicted criminal who…

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