Rahamim Malul, the haredi mayor of the Israeli city of Rehovot canceled a public bar and bat mitzvah ceremony for children with disabilities because it was scheduled to held at a Conservative synagogue. Wha t Malul did is almost certainly illegal. But in the banana republic that is today's Israel, that really doesn't matter – and neither do the kids.
Above: Rahamim Malul
Haredi Mayor Abruptly Cancels Public Bar And Bat Mitzvah Ceremony For Disabled Children In Slap At Conservative Movement
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Rahamim Malul, the haredi mayor of the Israeli city of Rehovot canceled a public bar and bat mitzvah ceremony for children with disabilities because it was scheduled to held at a Conservative synagogue, Ha’aretz reported.
Malul - a former Sefardi haredi Shas Party Knesset member who is now a member of the ruling Likud Party – allegedly ordered the principal of the Lotem school for the disabled children to move the ceremony to an Orthodox synagogue. He also said he would allow the Conservative rabbi to participate in the ceremony at the Orthodox synagogue, but there would be restrictions: girls would be forbidden from wearing tallits (prayer shawls) or tefillin, and certain prayers from the Conservative siddur (prayer book) would have to be replaced with prayers from the standard Orthodox siddur.
Parents of the children, angered by Malul’s power play, moved the time of the ceremony so that it would take place after school hours, thereby removing municipal control from the event, thereby allowing it to be held at the Conservative synagogue despite Malul’s objections.
The Adrabah Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, which is run by the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel, sponsors the bar and bat mitzvah ceremony and trains the children for months before it so they can participate.
The spokeswoman for the government of the city of Rehovot claimed that the change in venue ordered by Malul was meant to accommodate the parents of Orthodox children who attend Lotem. Those parents allegedly objected to holding the ceremony in a Conservative synagogue.
“These parents complained to the municipality that holding the ceremony at a Reform [sic] synagogue prevents them from coming. The municipality subsequently approached the principal of the school and notified her that the ceremony could not be held in this format because it this is anti-religious coercion on other parents,” the spokeswoman, Carmel Cooper, told Ha’aretz. She added that Malul does not object to parents following their own religious beliefs, but this cannot be done “as part of an official ceremony organized by the school that is supposed to be acceptable to all parents.”
The Masorti Movement’s Adrabah Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities has reportedly been running this bar and bat mitzvah program for children with disabilities for 25 years, with ceremonies held across Israel. Last year’s ceremony was reportedly held at the Conservative synagogue in Rehovot with no interference from the mayor.
But last September, it became the first Conservative synagogue in Israel to install an openly gay rabbi, British-born Mikie Goldstein.
In contrast to much of Orthodox Judaism, the Conservative Movement allows most children with disabilities to serve as part of a minyan (prayer quorum) and to read from the Torah once they reach bar or bat mitzvah age.
“Thousands of children in Israel have already celebrated their bar and bat mitzvahs through our program, but it is not children that interests the mayor. How very sad and how utterly infuriating,” Yizhar Hess, executive director of the Masorti Movement in Israel, said.
Four children are scheduled to participate in Thursday’s ceremony in Rehovot.
Six more children are scheduled to have their ceremony in June. It is unclear where that second ceremony will be held.
Rehovot recently partnered with the Jewish Federation of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
But according to what Ha’aretz calls “well-placed sources,” that deal might be ended by Minneapolis in response to Malul’s bullying.