Israeli leaders call on government to recognize liberal streams of Judaism in wake of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

JERUSALEM (JTA) – An Israeli government minister and the country’s opposition leader called on Israel to recognize the liberal streams of Judaism in the wake of the shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 worshippers dead.

Opposition leader Avi Gabbay also called “upon the Jews of the United States to immigrate more and more to Israel, because this is their home,” leading to criticism.

In a tweet on Monday morning, Deputy Minister Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States, said: “The Conservative Jews of Pittsburgh were sufficiently Jewish to be killed because they were Jews but their movement is not recognized by the Jewish State. Israel must bolster these communities, already challenged by assimilation, by strengthening our ties with them.”

He added, in his Hebrew tweet and not his English-language tweet on the same topic: “I call on Minister Bennett not to suffice with condolences, but to recognize liberal Jewish streams and unite the people.” He was referring to the fact that Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who also serves as Diaspora Minister, in the hours after the attack flew to Pittsburgh in order to visit the synagogue, meet with the local Jewish community and participate in the funerals of those killed in the attack.

Gabbay in an interview with the Ynet Hebrew language news website, told reporter Attila Somfalvi that Jews of the United States should immigrate to Israel and, “at the same time, I call on this government to embrace the Reform and Conservative movements and to pass the Western Wall plan” for an egalitarian prayer space.

Oren responded to the call for aliyah, tweeting in Hebrew: “Avi Gabbay said things that should not be said because he simply does not understand. Through his words he adds insult to injury. The call to U.S. Jewry, especially after last night, deeply hurts their feelings and reduces their desire for aliyah. Gabbay does not understand anything about Israel’s relationship with the Diaspora.”

Opposition party Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, echoed Gabby and Oren in calling for recognition of the liberal streams of Judaism.

“If you are murdered because you are a Jew, then you are a Jew,” he said in a statement also posted on Facebook. “The Conservative and Reform are our brothers. They are our family.”

“It is good that the minister of education travelled to Pittsburgh to comfort and strengthen, but the relationship with the majority of U.S. Jews cannot be based on condolences and grief,” Lapid said. He added: “We cannot bring back the dead, but we have a duty to fix our relationship with the living.”

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