The president of Israel announces in the Israeli media that he will not call Reform rabbis “rabbi.” When asked about this, the head of the Reform movement Rabbi Eric Yoffie noted that he had suspected as much for some time, because when meeting with President Katsav, the president had clearly avoided calling Rabbi Yoffie “rabbi.” He then noted that he would not meet with President Katsav until Katsav uses the “r” word.
So what’s new? In response to this understandable move by Rabbi Yoffie, Preisdent Katsav has lashed out:
“It is inappropriate to debate me via the media. I hear I’m being boycotted. No president of the Reform Movement will boycott the president of the state or the state. He [Yoffie – A.B] wouldn’t dare do that to the president of the United States. I am the president of a sovereign state.”
The President of Israel manages to offend millions of non-Orthodox Jews. He believes he is standing on principle. Why? Because he has rabbinic advice from Israel’s Sefardic chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar:
“There is a problem,” the president said. “The chief rabbi opposes calling Reform rabbis ‘Rabbi’ so I call them ‘Reform Rabbis’.* In this way I avoid an argument with the Orthodox rabbis.
Amar, infamous for rejecting all American Orthodox conversions and for the thuggish and criminal behavior of his immediate family, is the “mind” behind this petty and unnecessary flap. Ending Israel’s state-sponsored rabbinate cannot come too soon.
* This appears to be false. President Katsav apparently referred to Rabbi Yoffie as “Mr. Yoffie.” The “Reform Rabbi Ploni” bit seems to be a new gambit meant to extract the President from the whole dug by Rabbi Amar.