(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on July 9, told Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit to put together a special forum to discuss religious issues affecting the different streams of Judaism. The decision follows Religious Services Minister David Azoulay’s recent controversial remarks that he does not consider Reform Jews to be Jewish. The forum will include representatives from all religious streams, from haredi through Conservative to Reform, and will be headed by Mandelblit and by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky. The forum “aims to facilitate an open dialogue between the denominations, and avoid actions and remarks that would undermine the fragile fabric of life formed between them,” a source in the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Azoulay had told Army Radio, “A Reform Jew, from the moment he stops following Jewish law, I cannot say he is a Jew.” Netanyahu reprimanded Azoulay, saying he rejects the minister’s “hurtful remarks about Reform Judaism, which do not reflect the government’s position.” “I have spoken with Minister Azoulay to remind him that Israel is the home of all Jews, and that as minister of religious services, he serves all Israelis,” Netanyahu said.