Reform, Liberal and Masorti to protest Israeli rabbi’s arrest outside embassy
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Reform, Liberal and Masorti to protest Israeli rabbi’s arrest outside embassy

Jewish denominations to demonstrate under a chuppah over detention of progressive rabbi Rabbi Dov Haiyun, who performed a non-Orthodox wedding ceremony

Rabbi Dov Haiyun was detained last week for performing a non-Orthodox wedding
Rabbi Dov Haiyun was detained last week for performing a non-Orthodox wedding

Three Jewish denominations are to hold a protest outside the Israeli embassy in London today, amid anger in the Diaspora after a progressive rabbi was arrested in Israel for officiating at a non-Orthodox union.

Religious leaders and supporters of Reform, Liberal and Masorti Judaism in the UK will descend on High Street Kensington and protest under a chuppah – the traditional Jewish wedding canopy – at 3pm, with a smashing of the glass.

The protest is in support of Conservative Rabbi Dov Haiyun, who performs weddings of Jews outside the state-run Chief Rabbinate. He was woken at 5am by police banging on the door of his Haifa home, according to Masorti Israel.

Haiyun was then interrogated for conducting the wedding of a Jew born of an extramarital affair after complaints from the local rabbinical council.

Rabbi Dov Haiyun

The state’s involvement has shocked Jewish groups around the world, because the spectre of Israeli police acting on complaints from rabbinical councils is a radical departure from established norms of non-enforcement.

“I am not a felon, not a murderer, not a criminal,” said Haiyun. “It’s hard to think of an action that is less Jewish, on the eve of Tisha B’av. The police have been dragged into serving the Orthodox rabbinical court. This is a sad day for Israeli democracy.”

The rabbinical courts say Haiyun performs “criminal and illegal” weddings for couples who are prevented from marrying under Jewish law, including those born of an extramarital affair.

In Israel it is technically illegal for non-Orthodox officiators to perform a wedding or civil ceremony, but Israeli police have never enforced it and Labor leader Avi Gabbay called for “the first case to also be the last”.

There was anger too in the UK. Senior Masorti Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg said: “I’m shocked at the pre-dawn police interrogation of Rabbi Dov Haiyun for the ‘crime’ of officiating at Masorti weddings.

He called for the Israeli government “to end all harassment of non-Orthodox Jews and to ensure complete freedom of religion within the Jewish State”.

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, chair of the Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors, said: “This arrest and its manner was not Shem Ha’Shamayim – for the sake of heaven.”

He added: “In a week when the Israeli Government has decided to discriminate against the LGBT community and Arabs, challenging the democracy of the State, it has also decided to police Judaism.”

Meanwhile Rabbi Fabian Sborovsky, chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis and Cantors, said: “We have seen the true face of the ultra-Orthodox monopoly of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Progressive rabbis and Jews around the world stand united against the appalling treatment of our colleague.”

He called on the government “to uphold the values and founding vision of Israel’s Declaration of Independence to ensure freedom and equality of religion for all”.

Israeli parliamentarian Yair Lapid, who leads the centrist Yesh Atid party, said Haiyun’s treatment was “a disgrace”. Speaking on Israel Radio, he described it as “the madness of Haredi coercion”.

He added: “A rabbi was arrested in the State of Israel because he married two people? The ultra-Orthodox have decided to show that they control the country. We will stand behind Rabbi Haiyun.”

Meanwhile, an angry Gabbay tweeted: “This is not Iran!”

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