At first it was a letter signed by 30 Israeli rabbis, primarily haredi and many in public positions, supporting a religious injunction against renting or selling property to non-Jews. The outrage perhaps was unnotable towards typical haredi extremism. Then the signatories to the letter reached 300 signers, including many more municipal rabbis on the public payroll. This has prompted calls for their resignation or firing them, and even Netanyahu to reject their call.
Now, Israeli rabbis rejecting this ruling have called on their Diaspora counterparts to support them in rejecting this abuse of Jewish texts. The New Israel Fund, the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly, Rabbis for Human Rights, and J Street‘s Rabbinical Cabinet have all circulated a joint letter that’s reached 165 signatures since Friday afternoon. Hundreds more are needed by the end of Monday, December 13 in order to present the letter Tuesday morning during the Knesset hearing on the issue.
Full text below, sign here.
UPDATED 12/14/10: The letter achieved 752 signers at press time. See Haaretz, Ynet, JTA. More signatures will be accepted through the end of the week.
UPDATED 12/15/10: The letter passed 900 signers and saw coverage in The Guardian and the Washington Post online. The RCA Orthodox rabbinical association now also calls for the “reconsideration” of the original letter.
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 to 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