Respect all Jewish streams, Rabbi Stav says after Knesset blow-up

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The head of the Tzohar rabbinical organization attempted on Facebook to smooth things over after disparaging the Reform and Conservative movements during a Knesset debate.

Rabbi David Stav, whose group helps to involve non-religious couples and their families in religious wedding ceremonies, had said in the public debate that he did not recognize the validity of their religious ceremonies.

“We must give a big hug and much respect to our brothers of the House of Israel from all streams (of Judaism) and where there is dissent, to say it with humility and humbleness but also honestly and with courage,” he wrote in his post Wednesday.

The statement came a day after the meeting of the Knesset Lobby for U.S.-Israel Relations, which was attended by American Jewish leaders such as Jewish Federations of North America  CEO Jerry Silverman; Jay Ruderman, the president of the Ruderman Family Foundation; and Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

Jacobs called for an end to discrimination against the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel.

“The members, donors, and leaders of AIPAC and Federations are Reform and Conservative Jews. With Senator [Joseph] Lieberman’s retirement, every Jewish member of the Senate and House is a Reform or Conservative Jew,” he said, adding that they give Israel “unconditional support.”

Jacobs called for Reform life-cycle ceremonies to be recognized in Israel.

Stav, who was considered the most moderate of the candidates for Ashkenazic chief rabbi, said in response: “The problem of assimilation among American Jews is not only an American problem, it’s our problem, too. There’s an ocean of ceremonies and an ocean of people eager to conduct ceremonies. Chelsea Clinton married a Jewish guy. I’m not arguing the legitimacy of it; you’re free to think what you want. But do you want me to recognize Chelsea Clinton’s child as a Jew? You want me to recognize the rabbi who officiated at her wedding as a rabbi? Are you trying to push intermarriage through my back door?”