JFNA rabbinic cabinet president slams Lau for comments on non-Orthodox school

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The leader of the rabbinical arm of the Jewish federations movement expressed his “extreme disappointment” in Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi’s rebuke of the country’s education minister for visiting a non-Orthodox school.

It is “particularly disappointing that you chose to criticize rather than encourage greater cooperation between the Jews of Diaspora and of Israel,” Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, the president of the Jewish Federations of North America’s Rabbinic Cabinet said in a Dec. 27 letter to Rabbi David Lau.

“Your comments only weaken rather than strengthen the ties between Jews in the Diaspora and Israel,” Weinblatt said.

Lau had earlier in the month criticized Education Minister Naftali Bennett for visiting a Conservative Jewish Solomon Schechter school while in New York.

Lau told the haredi Kol Hai radio station that Bennett, the chairman of the religious-Zionist Jewish Home party and a modern Orthodox Jew, should have conferred with an Orthodox rabbi about the visit. Lau called the Dec. 1 trip to the school “unacceptable.”

“To speak deliberately with a specific community and to recognize it and its path, when this path distances Jews from the path of the Jewish people, this is forbidden,” Lau said. “If Minister Bennett would have asked my opinion before the visit, I would have said to him explicitly, ‘You cannot go somewhere where the education distances Jews from tradition, from the past, and from the future of the Jewish people.’”

Weinblatt, a Conservative rabbi in a Maryland suburb of Washington D.C., said in his letter to Lau that he was surprised by the report because the chief rabbi had recently conferred with the JFNA’s rabbinic cabinet in New York and had expressed an “open and tolerant spirit.”

Weinblatt in a separate Dec. 27 letter expressed his appreciation to Bennett for the visit.

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