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The Jewish Federations of North America
Leadership Briefing
Jewish Federations Condemn Wave of Religious Extremism and Violence in Israel 
December 27, 2011

The Jewish Federations of North America today expressed strong condemnation of a recent wave of religious extremism and violence in Israel.

The situation has been highlighted in the media in recent days, which has focused on the verbal abuse of an eight-year-old girl in the city of Beit Shemesh, by a group of ultra-Orthodox men. Other issues have included the forced segregation of genders on some public bus routes – despite the fact that the Israeli Supreme Court has outlawed this practice – and the unofficial ban on any female image in advertising in some areas.

“Our movement includes Jewish people from all streams and persuasions. Yet, despite our differing backgrounds, we unite today to strongly condemn, with one clear and loud voice, all acts of violence, intimidation, coercion and extremism, especially those that are undertaken, incredibly, in the name of Judaism,” said Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of JFNA. “We know that ‘deracheha darchei noam’ – the Torah’s paths are ways of peace. We stand firmly and resolutely behind the voices of reason and moderation in Beit Shemesh and throughout Israel.”

As a result of significant media attention in recent days, many members of the Israeli Government, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have spoken out publicly to condemn the extremist behavior. Similarly, the police have stepped up efforts and made a number of arrests.

“We applaud Prime Minister Netanyahu and other members of the government for their strong words condemning recent acts of extremism, and urge the government and the Israeli police to work hard to stamp out this stain on Israeli society,” said Rebecca Caspi, JFNA’s senior vice president for Israel and Overseas.

Earlier today, thousands took to the streets in Beit Shemesh to protest the acts of extremism, drawing increased media attention and scrutiny to the city. 

Michael Gelman, JFNA’s chair of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, said, ”We reach out to the Ultra Orthodox community, and in particular, their spiritual leaders. We plead for them to break their silence and speak out firmly and decisively. An act of this nature can help heal Israeli society and restore their image as moral, upstanding, Torah-abiding citizens.”

Stuart Kurlander, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, which has a relationship with the Beit Shemesh/Mate Yehuda Region through the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Partnership Together program, also condemned the recent violence, intimidation and other extremist acts. “We have been working in partnership with the city of Beit Shemesh for 10 years and have come to know the community and its people very well. We stand with the law-abiding population of Beit Shemesh, and especially those groups working at conciliation and moderation in the city,” said Kurlander. “At the same time, we urge Beit Shemesh’s mayor, Moshe Abutbol, to put a stop to this religious extremism and violence, and help to rebuild a harmonious and thriving community.”
 
For more information, please contact: Dani Wassner at dani.wassner@jewishfederations.org

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The Jewish Federations of North America
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New York, NY 10268