Friday, 16 Nov 2018

Shots in Pittsburgh were widely reported in Israel, but not all media reported that they occurred in a synagogue.

People gather under the US and Israeli flags projected Sunday on the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem to express their solidarity with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh following the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue. (Menahem Kahana / AFP / Getty Images)

JERUSALEM – It was a shooting in a synagogue, an attack on the spiritual heart of the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, a message of hatred against Jews all over the world, but the ultra-Orthodox Jewish media in Israel and the main ones The country's rabbis refrained from referring to Tree of Life as a place of worship Sunday, using phrases such as "Jewish Center" and "Unknown Place".

The omission was not an oversight.

Recognition of reformed or conservative synagogues, where Jewish practices and texts often differ from those of ultra-Orthodox synagogues, is a taboo subject. Not only the ultra-Orthodox, also called Haredim, adhere to a strict separation of the sexes, but it is also forbidden to use a phone, play music or go to the synagogue on the Sabbath.

"It is impossible for Haredim to recognize a conservative or reformed synagogue as a real synagogue," said Israel Cohen, journalist and host of the ultra-orthodox Kol Barama radio station.

A synagogue is a holy place where Jews observe Jewish law without exception, he said. "They can not call the place where the attack took place a synagogue; it can only be a Jewish center.

Authorities announced Sunday that 11 people had been killed when a gunman with three pistols and a semi-automatic rifle had attacked the conservative synagogue of Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Three of the victims are police officers, the others are Jewish faithful.

It is the most deadly attack against Jews in the history of the United States.

The decision not to consider the Tree of Life synagogue as a place of worship underscores the conflict that exists between Israel's deeply traditional Jews and the often more liberal Jewish community in America.

In Israel, the ultra-Orthodox form a small but powerful community. Representing less than 12 percent of Israel's 8.7 million, the Israelis also enjoy great influence: they represent 13 out of 120 representatives in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, and maintain a kingly position in the ruling coalition of the prime minister. Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Their rabbis are also responsible for overseeing much of Israel's crucial life cycle institutions – approving all marriages, divorces and conversions to Judaism – often rejecting certification of these events when they were officiated by reformed or conservative rabbis. They also serve as guardians of Israel's main sacred Jewish sites.

It's on the Wailing Wall – the holiest site for Jews, which once was the outer barrier of a Jewish temple built over 2,000 years ago – where the tension between Jewish rivers is the most pronounced.

A study by Pew in 2013 reveals that about one-third of American Jews say they are reformed and 18% more than conservative Judaism. Only 10% identify as Orthodox. For years, American reformist and conservative Jews pushed the Israeli government to create an egalitarian space on the wall so that their communities could pray in the same style as in the United States.

But Netanyahu, who has long enjoyed the support of American Jews and often presents himself as the leader of the Jewish world, is also tied to the demands of his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners. His proposed compromise, a space at the southern end of the sacred site, is considered unacceptable by Reformed and Conservative Jews.

A compromise acceptable to all Jews remains elusive and ultra-Orthodox leaders have not concealed their dislike of reformist and conservative Jewish practices.

In July, Yinon Azoulay, member of the Knesset of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, said during a debate on creating an egalitarian space on the Western Wall that Reformed Jews "are not Jewish" . He blamed them for causing a minor earthquake in northern Israel.

The former chief rabbi of Jerusalem, Shlomo Amar, also provoked an uproar in the debate on the wall when he declared that Reformed Jews were worse than Holocaust deniers.

Israel's top rabbis – there are two – issued statements condemning the attack, though they did not admit that it was held in a synagogue.

"I was shocked to learn the killing of innocent Jews in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, simply because they were Jews, by a heinous murderer who was driven by anti-Semitic hatred," said in a statement. statement chief rabbi Sephardi Yitzhak Yosef. with bereaved families and with all our Jewish brothers and sisters living in the United States. "

In an interview with Makor Rishon, a newspaper for the modern Orthodox community, David Lau, Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the country, described the synagogue as the "Tree of Life" of a place with a deep Jewish flavor. ".

"This tragedy should bring all Jews together, not tear us apart," said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union of Reform Judaism, which represents 1.5 million Reformed Jews in some 900 synagogues in the United States. United States and Canada.

"It is unacceptable that a rabbi worthy of his name questions the Jewishness of those who worship the Sabbath in a synagogue torn apart by the murder and blood of Jews," he said.

Michael Oren, Israel's former ambassador to the United States, currently vice-minister of the Netanyahu government, also tweeted on the subject, calling on Israel to strengthen its relations with Jewish communities around the world.

"The conservative Jews of Pittsburgh were Jewish enough to be killed because they were Jewish, but their movement is not recognized by the Jewish state," Oren tweeted.


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