This past May, the Rabbinical Assembly passed a resolution on civil discourse in our society. It calls for speaking out against demonizing rhetoric and calls upon leaders to “conduct themselves according to the highest standards of civility in all public discourse.” Calling for Palestinians “to perish” (see Haaretz) is unacceptable and intolerable in a civil society. Furthermore, Rabbi Yosef’s words are not acceptable as words of Torah. Our tradition teaches us that the litmus test of authoritative Torah teaching is whether the words are words of “pleasantness and peace.” (Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 32a, based on Proverbs 3:17) Torah teachings that are the clear antithesis of “pleasantness and peace,” such as those of Ovadia Yosef, must be categorically rejected.
As leaders of the Conservative/Masorti movement, we deplore these recent comments of Former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that, like many of his comments over the years, constitute irresponsible incitement to violence. We view with hope the prospects for peace and security for Israel and her neighbors and recognize that such irresponsible and inciting comments harm these prospects at a crucial time.
As we enter a New Year of renewal and return, we call on the entire House of Israel to embrace a religious vision that is open-minded and pluralistic, respectful and peace-loving. May this year bring Peace to Israel and all the world.
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
The Jewish Theological Seminary
Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies
Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies
Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs
Women’s League for Conservative Judaism
Jewish Educators Assembly
North American Association of Synagogue Executives
Solomon Schechter Day School Association
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