(JTA) — Over 750 rabbis and cantors of all denominations signed a letter urging their Israeli colleagues to speak out against a ruling by 39 municipal rabbis banning renting to non-Jews.
“The recent halakhic ruling from community rabbis in Israel that forbids leasing apartments to non-Jews has caused great shock and pain in our communities,” said the letter, initiated by the New Israel Fund. “The attempt to root discriminatory policies based on religion or ethnicity in Torah is a painful distortion of our tradition.”
The letter, open online for two days for signatures and released on Tuesday, concludes: “For the sake of our people, our Torah, and Israel, we beseech you to take a strong public stand and oppose those who misrepresent our tradition.”
Signatories include rabbis and cantors from the Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Orthodox streams, including Rabbi Marc D. Angel, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel, the historic Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in New York City; Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun, a progressive Jewish and interfaith magazine based in Berkeley, California; Rabbi Leonard S. Levin, professor at Jewish Theological Seminary Of America; Rabbi Rachel Cowan, director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality; and Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, the first woman to become a Reconstructionist rabbi when she was ordained in 1974.
The bulk of the signatories are from the United States, with significant numbers from Canada and Britain and a smattering from other small communities.
A number of rabbinical leaders in Israel have condemned the original ruling as has Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israeli attorney general is looking into whether the rabbis who ruled against renting to non-Jews broke the law in their capacity as government employees.