The surprising announcement this week by World Zionist Organization officials that Shas will join their institution drew harsh condemnations from the Reform Movement in Israel. One leader called the deal "a step closer to the WZO's grave." But supporters of the move called it a "historic achievement of joining forces."
"This deal reflects an ideological bankruptcy within the WZO," said Rabbi Uri Regev, a prominent local leader of progressive Judaism. Advertisement
The agreement, which came to many as a shock, will put the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, with its complex attitude toward secular Zionism and rejection of non-Orthodox denominations, around the same table as Zionist parties and Reform streams of Judaism.
"To accept Shas was cynical and self-effacing, considering Shas' rejection of the authority of secular courts and democracy," said Regev, president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism - an international umbrella group.
Regev cited Shas' charter, which says policy will ultimately be determined by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the movement's controversial spiritual leader.
The deal to include Shas - which would be the first time the WZO receives Haredi representation - was handled by WZO Treasurer Hagai Meirom. "I regret to hear the radical and unrestrained reaction of my Conservative and Reform colleagues," Meirom told Anglo File. "It shows that though they preach pluralism, they're unwilling to practice it." He added Shas' inclusion into the WZO would strengthen the institution.
This isn't a historic move, it's procedural,» said Shas director general MK Yaakov Margi.
But David Breakstone - a top WZO official and representative of the Conservative Movement - said that Shas still had a long way to go before it is given representation in the WZO.
"WZO has no constitutional mandate to accept new players into the WZO," he said. "These things are determined in votes in other fora, which examine whether the candidate movement for inclusion is Zionist or not."