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Sunday, 21 October 2007

Peres to meet, mend ties with U.K. Reform Jews

Peres to meet, mend ties with U.K. Reform Jews
By Daphna Berman
In a bid to repair strained relations between the presidential office
and Reform Judaism, President Shimon Peres is to host a delegation from
Britain's Movement for Reform Judaism at his official residence in
Jerusalem next week.

Next Thursday's meeting, the first of its kind since Peres assumed
office in July, is to focus on ways to "strengthen the ties between
Israel and the Diaspora," a spokesperson for Peres said. The delegation
will be headed by Rabbi Tony Bayfield, head of the Movement for Reform
Judaism, the British branch of Reform Judaism.

The refusal last year by former president Moshe Katsav to address Rabbi
Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, as "rabbi" set
off an international storm.
The union represents about 1.5 million Reform Jews in North America.

After the incident Katsav told interviewers that he grew up in a home
where a rabbi was only someone who had received Orthodox ordination.
Insiders predict that with Peres as president, the relationship will be
entirely different.

Rabbi Uri Regev, President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism,
called Peres an "old friend of the Reform movement" and said that Peres'
daughter, son-in-law and their children are all active members of a
Reform congregation in Tel Aviv.

Bayfield has called next week's meeting "most welcome."

"What took place between President Moshe Katzav and the head of the
American Reform Movement was completely unacceptable," Bayfield said
this week from London. "But it is in the past, and now we have a new
president and I don't want our meeting to be considered in the light of
what is best forgotten."

"We are, of course, glad that Israel now has a head of state who
recognizes the importance of engaging with all sides in the Jewish
world, just as we recognize the importance of engaging with Israel in
its 60th anniversary year," Bayfield added.

A spokesman for Peres declined to comment on the fallout involving
Katsav. "The President of the State of Israel is honored to be the
President of the entire Jewish nation and shall work without
discrimination towards furthering the wellbeing of the Jewish nation and
that of all the citizens of the State of Israel," the spokesman said.
(from Ha'Aretz)

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