Orthodox members boycott the Haifa Religious Council

According to the rules of the religious councils, if a quorum is not present, the council is to meet again in a week and conduct business with as many members as are on hand.

"That is what I expected," Freund said, referring to the boycott by the Orthodox council members. "I'm sorry that is the way it is. Judaism should unite people, but those who talk about defending Judaism act in this way. But it won't stop me doing what I think is right."

Freund said that in theory, next week's meeting should have more members attending, since the business to be conducted includes the election of the chairman, deputy chairman and treasurer.

Reacting to the boycott, which included council members representing the Labor Party and the Likud, Rabbi Mordechai Rotem, chairman of the Israel Union for Progressive Judaism, said that those who had stayed away in the name of avoiding controversy had actually exacerbated controversy. The official rabbinate, he said, was inciting the religious public, which is moving toward ever greater extremism.

Rotem noted that only last week the chief rabbis had attended the meeting of the Agudat Yisrael Council of Sages. This week, he said, the Haifa chief rabbis, who in the past had been characterized as moderates, had attended a fervently religious protest meeting vilifying the Reform.

"We haven't yet forgotten the incitement against the late Yitzhak Rabin," Rotem said.

Meanwhile, the State Attorney's Office this week appealed a district court decision allowing 23 people who underwent non-Orthodox conversions in Israel to officially register as Jews.

In its appeal to Israel's Supreme Court, the office acknowledged that the Supreme Court did indeed maintain it is sufficient for the Jewish community abroad to establish the conversion as valid, in order for the convert to be listed as a Jew in the population registry.

However, the office claims that such cases should not be generalized to include a person who traveled abroad in order to undergo conversion.