Haredi MK compares Reform movement to mental illness

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A haredi Orthodox lawmaker in Israel reportedly compared the Reform movement to a mentally ill person.

Israel Eichler of the United Torah Judaism party made his remarks Feb. 23 in the lead-up to a Knesset debate the next day on the Supreme Court’s decision that non-Orthodox converts can immerse in a public mikvah, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

“Not every mentally ill person can come to the operating room and decide the rules of medicine and force the hospital to have an operation by whatever way works,” Eichler was quoted as saying. “And so it is intolerable that the directors of ritual baths will have to allow organizers of Reform religion-changing ceremonies into a Jewish ritual bath.”

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that mikvahs in Israel must open to non-Orthodox conversion rites. Previously, Israeli mikvahs have denied access to Reform and Conservative converts.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, called Eichler’s remarks “another example of the extreme intolerance of the ultra-Orthodox religious establishment.”

Rabbi Denise Eger and Rabbi Steven A. Fox, who serve as president and chief executive of the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis, said in a statement: “MK Eichler’s disturbing and ignorant comments are both insensitive and backwards …  an unfortunate reminder of how far we still have to go to achieve equality for all Jews in Israel and around the world.”

Other haredi Orthodox leaders in Israel condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Feb. 22 meeting with U.S. Reform leaders, with Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush calling it “a stab in the heart of true Judaism,” according to Israel’s Arutz Sheva news portal. Apparently confusing the Reform with the Conservative movement, which was not at the meeting, Porush decried the “fiendish deeds” of both, saying they have “caused terrible assimilation and the annihilation of millions of Jews in the diaspora.” — jta & j. staff