One of the leading rabbinic authorities in the religious Zionist movement, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed of Har Bracha,went on live TV to explain why he chose to participate in an open panel discussion with a female Reform "rabbi" at the Makor Rishon conference.
Rabbi Melamed said that although he was generally opposed to attending meetings or panels of any kind, when he heard that the discussion would be held with a Reform "rabbi", he immediately accepted the invitation.
"I do not usually attend conferences," said Rabbi Melamed, "but in the year leading up to this conference, a number of incidents took place in which the religious sector voiced the opinion that the Reform and Conservative movements should be boycotted altogether."
"Even when Minister of Diaspora Affairs, MK Naftali Bennett, met with them and called them his brothers, people were mad at him. 'Why are you meeting them? You should have never done that.' Where's this coming from?" he wondered.
"In the aftermath of the bitter fight with the Reform and Conservative movements, there has been a misconception that these communities and their representatives should be boycotted, and as I watched, I found that a campaign of intimidation was being conducted…that those objecting to [dialogue with them] were being threatened. So I decided that next time I'd be offered an opportunity to attend a conference like that, I'd go for it."
"It wasn't a matter of chance that I was the one to be invited," he said. "I wanted to make a personal statement out of my responsibility as a rabbi—that the Reform and Conservative movements should not be boycotted."
"It wasn't meant as a public statement against the entire religious community, telling them they weren't acting right—just a personal deed, that's all. I wanted to let people know that It was fine to support dialogue with Reform and Conservative Jews and that the opposite viewpoint was also OK but since some people started attacking me before I had a chance to do it and questioning the validity of my position, I had to make it more public."
"Of course, we have a serious disagreement with them regarding the tenets of the Jewish faith and its teachings, so much so that we do not consider them a valid expression of Judaism. There are [different strands of Judaism] that are based on the Torah. The Reform movement is not," he pointed out.
"Since they have enacted changes to the Torah and Jewish Law, we are tasked with standing up to them. Therefore, we cannot attend a Reform wedding as a sign of disagreement and are prohibited from participating in their prayer services. We shouldn't get angry at them but explain their faults however," he added.
“These are Jewish movements. They do not represent religious Judaism because they aren't invested in following its guidelines but these are Jewish movements for whom a Jewish way of life is important and strengthening Judaism is of value so in that way they stave off assimilation. We should therefore treat their representatives as leaders of important movements made up of Jews," said Rabbi Melamed.
"These are Jewish movements intended for Jews," he continued. "There are many such movements like Maccabi World Union, the Joint, and others. Just like we should appreciate the positive activities these movements take part in, we need to have respect for the kindness, ethical behavior and Jewish solidarity of the Reform and Conservative movements. That means there is no room for boycotting them and doing so to their representatives means boycotting them altogether."
"It is precisely for the reason that we are forced to wage an ideological struggle with them that forces us not to attend their weddings or recognize them as legitimate branches of Judaism that we need to emphasize our [connection] with them. To show them that our rebuke doesn't come at the expense of our love for them," he concluded.