JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will host a study session with rabbis from various streams of Judaism in a unity-building effort.
Thursday’s event in Jerusalem will mark the upcoming fast of Tisha B’Av.
The Orthodox representative who originally had agreed to participate backed out, Haaretz reported. Rabbi Uri Sherki told Haaretz he would not attend for “technical reasons.” A day earlier, however, Sherki told the same newspaper that he was under pressure from some in the Orthodox community to cancel his appearance. He also was quoted on an Orthodox website as calling Reform Jews “heretics,” Haaretz reported.
Rabbi Benny Lau, the cousin of Rabbi David Lau, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, agreed to appear in Sherki’s place.
Several incidents in recent weeks have caused tension among the Jewish streams and the government.
“At this important time, the Office of the President, together with the Jewish People Policy Institute, has initiated an event to bring together the communities of the Jewish people in an atmosphere of mutual respect, and of learning and studying, to discuss the importance of Jewish unity and the need to work together to build understanding and respect,” said a statement from the President’s Office announcing the event.
The timing of the event, according to the statement, comes during “the Three Weeks, and indeed the Nine Days, and nearing Tisha B’Av, during which time we commemorate the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, among other terrible calamities which have befallen the Jewish people. Tragedies linked throughout Jewish tradition with the erosion of Jewish unity and respect for our fellow man.”