(JTA) — Israel’s religious services minister said in a radio interview that Reform Jews cannot be considered Jews.
“A Reform Jew, from the moment he stops following Jewish law, I cannot allow myself to say that he is a Jew,” David Azoulay, of the Sephardic Orthodox Shas party, said Tuesday morning on Army Radio. “These are Jews that have lost their way, and we must ensure that every Jew returns to the fold of Judaism, and accept everyone with love and joy.”
Azoulay spoke with Army Radio two days after Israel’s Cabinet reversed regulations reforming conversion policy that were passed by the previous government.
“Those who follow Reform Judaism living in the Diaspora are in the majority people who are wrong,” he said, stressing that halacha, or Jewish law, determines the rules for conversion. “We want to take care of all those Jews returning to Judaism according to Jewish law.”
The Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking him to publicly reject Azoulay’s statements, which he did. In a statement released Tuesday afternoon from his office, he said that they do not reflect the position of the government.
“I have spoken with Minister Azoulay to remind him that Israel is a home for all Jews and that as Minister of Religious Affairs, he serves all of Israel’s citizens,” Netanyahu said.
Last month, Azoulay in an interview called Reform Jews “a disaster for the people of Israel” during a discussion about the Women of the Wall group.