Rabbis add their voices to condemning Rafah operation

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Rabbis add their voices to condemning Rafah operation

More than 30 British rabbis and cantors call for end to Gaza war

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Children are on their way to fetch water in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on March 18, 2024. Credit: Khaled Omar/Xinhua/Alamy Live News
Children are on their way to fetch water in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on March 18, 2024. Credit: Khaled Omar/Xinhua/Alamy Live News

A group of UK rabbis who say they are from “multiple Jewish movements” have put their names to an open statement in which they condemn Israel’s ground invasion of Rafah.

The statement, released this week, has been signed by rabbis and cantors, primarily from the Liberal and Reform movements. They include well-known names such as Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, former senior rabbi of Reform Judaism and now at Bromley Reform Synagogue, and husband-and-wife teams such as Rabbi Larry Tabick and Rabbi Jackie Tabick.

Missing from the list, however, are the chief executives of Progressive Judaism, Rabbis Josh Levy and Charley Baginsky.

But perhaps one name which will raise eyebrows is that of Rabba Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz, whose 2020 semicha, or rabbinical ordination, was obtained through New York’s Yeshivat Maharat, within the Orthodox tradition.

Dr Taylor-Guthartz caused a storm in the Jewish world when she was temporarily dropped as a lecturer by the London School of Jewish Studies, after the LSJS president, Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis, ruled that her ordination was not compatible with a formal role at an Orthodox institution. She was later reinstated when LSJS announced that its academic fellows were not religious appointments. Hers is the only Orthodox-linked name on the list of signatories.

The statement says the religious leaders “are deeply concerned for the fate of the 133 Israeli hostages still held in Gaza and the suffering of all in the region. We therefore feel compelled to speak out against an Israeli ground invasion of Rafah”.

The signatories say they “fear that the ongoing war continues to put at risk both the hostages’ lives and those of many Palestinians. With an estimated 1.4 million people gathered in Rafah, one of the last zones in Gaza that Israel had designated as a ‘safe’ area, and a severe lack of humanitarian aid across Gaza, the consequences of the invasion will be dire. We stand in solidarity with those protesting in Israel to demand an end to the war, and call for a halt to the invasion of Rafah, a bilateral ceasefire by both Israel and Hamas, the release of all hostages and urgent aid to be provided to Gaza”.

Thirty-three religious leaders have put their names to the statement.

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