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Senior Reform Rabbi calls on movement to be less 'detached' from Israel

Rabbi Steven Katz says Reform Jews are 'more detached from, more disparaging' about the country than Masorti or Orthodox

    Rabbi Stephen Katz
    Rabbi Stephen Katz (Photo: The JC)

    One of the most senior rabbis in the Reform movement is calling on its members to show greater support for Israel, saying they have become more “detached” than other British Jews.

    Rabbi Steven Katz, of Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue, voiced his concern about the detachment of Reform Jews from Israel in a Rosh Hashanah sermon earlier this week and plans to devote his Kol Nidre address on Tuesday evening to advocating a “closer embrace” of the Jewish state.

    Rabbi Katz, who is due to retire in January after more than 40 years in the pulpit, told the JC that “it is well-known that Reform Jews are more detached from, more disparaging about Israel, than either Masorti or Orthodox.”

    In his sermon earlier this week, he explained he had asked whether it was “detachment from Judaism that was the cause of detachment from Israel” or the other way round.

    His greatest worry was that detachment from Israel was indicative of detachment from Judaism as a whole.

    Reviewing events over his rabbinic career in his sermon, he said the “greatest achievements” of Reform Judaism had come from its egalitarianism.

    Rabbi Katz, who gave his first High Holy Day sermon in 1970,  had  been in the same rabbinic class as Rabbi Jackie Tabick, ordained as the first female British rabbi in 1975.

    Its acceptance of women leaders had influenced Masorti, Orthodoxy and “even the church,” he said.

    The Reform movement also deserved “great credit for opening minds and doors to the gay community,” he said.

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