Israeli politician apologises for saying Reform not Jewish

Member of Knesset, David Rotem (Photo: Knesset)

Member of Knesset, David Rotem (Photo: Knesset)

MK David Rotem has apologised for using the phrase "another religion" to refer to Reform Jews, which some say echoes the wording of Israel's Law of Return to differentiate between Jews and non-Jews.

"I spoke about Reform Judaism in a mistaken and erroneous fashion, as a result of which many people were offended," said Mr Rotem, a member of Likud-Beiteinu party at a meeting of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which he chairs.

"My intention was that I have deep differences with the Reform movement about practical matters related to Judaism. At the same time, considering that we are all Jews and members of the same religion, we need to solve these differences in discussions and conversations around the table. I apologise to anyone who may have been hurt."

But he also said that he thought his words had been "twisted" by some in certain quarters.

"There were those who tried to twist my words into meaning that I did not believe that Reform Jews are Jewish," he said. "For me, any Reform Jew born to a Jewish mother is a Jew like any other."

The director of the US-based Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, had made a strong appeal for Mr Rotem to apologise, saying that he was "deeply disturbed" by his comments.

In response to the Israeli parliamentarian's subsequent apology, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the director of the Reform movement in Israel, said he was appreciative, adding that arguments between denominations should take place through "mutual respect and by seeking the common ground".

Last updated: 11:07am, February 10 2014