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December 16, 1994 - Image 58

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-12-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Uri Regev's Letter
Comes Under Fire

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Jerusalem (JrA) - Uri Regev, a
civil rights activist and Reform
rabbi, has come under fire for a
letter he wrote a year ago to a
Canadian lawyer attesting to in-
stances of alleged religious dis-
crimination against intermarried
couples in Israel.
The letter was solicited from
Rabbi Regev to help determine
whether a particular family of im-
migrants to Israel from the for-
mer Soviet Union could be
granted refugee status in Cana-
da on grounds of religious dis-
crimination in Israel.
The incident follows headline
news last summer that hundreds
of Israeli immigrants from the
former Soviet Union had been ad-
mitted to Canada as refugees
based on claims of religious dis-
crimination here.
Canadian government officials
have since responded to Israeli
diplomatic protests by claiming
powerlessness. They say the
board governing immigration and
refugees is an independent body.
In his letter of November 1993
on behalf of the Grosman family,
who had applied for refugee sta-
tus in Canada, Rabbi Regev con-
cluded, "The situation of the
family in Israel would be truly
undesirable and demeaning and
would deprive them of basic civ-
il and human rights."
The husband, Yuri Grosman,
is Jewish and his wife, Olga, is
not.
Rabbi Regev is the director of
the Religious Action Center in Is-
rael, which, among other things,
runs advocacy centers through-
out the country for new immi-
grants.
He is also an attorney and key
legal combatant, working
through the High Court of Jus-
tice, against the monopoly of the
Orthodox establishment over re-
ligious affairs in Israel.
The letter has laid Rabbi
Regev open to charges that he is
hurting Israel, Zionism and the
Reform movement. -
The furor arose last week af-
ter the Israeli daily Ha'aretz ob-
tained a copy of Rabbi Regev's
letter with the names of the in-
dividual family deleted. The let-
ter was apparently being used as
a form letter by other Israeli im-
migrants attempting to gain
refugee status in Canada.
Rabbi Regev, who has been
aware for several months that the
letter was being reissued without
his authorization, said he had no
idea who made such "unautho-
rized and improper use" of his let-
ter.
He protested its misuse in a
letter to the Grosmans' attorney

in Canada several months ago.
In the letter, he protested "in the
strongest of terms all unautho-
rized use of these modified let-
ters" and demanded their
"immediate cessation."
Despite his concern that the
letter was being misused, Rabbi
Regev said he stands by the orig-
inal letter, which was written
Nov. 15, 1993, to an Ontario
lawyer in response to an inquiry
about possible religious discrim-
ination in Israel against the Gros-
mans and their daughter, Alissa.
In that letter, Rabbi Regev
wrote that "harassment" against
mixed marriages, "especially in
particularly Jewish neighbor-
hoods, is quite prevalent."
"Beyond the fact of intoler-
ance," he wrote, those in mixed
marriages and their children face
"serious civil rights problems."

Rabbi Hirsch took
pains to dissociate
the Reform
movement.

'The difficulties for the family
would follow them from birth to
death," he said. Such difficulties
would range from the refusal of
the Orthodox "to perform a ritu-
al circumcision on a son," to the
inability of the children to marry
Jews in Israel, to the impossibil-
ity of burial together "because the
cemeteries are run by Orthodox
authorities who do not permit
burial of a non-Jew next to a Jew
and there is no civil burial alter-
native."
Rabbi Regev said that in an-
swering other periodic inquiries
from research coordinators for the
Canadian refugee board, he was
careful to distinguish between le-
gitimate and illegitimate claims
of religious discrimination.
"Several times I was very clear
in countering arguments that
had no basis in fact" which
claimed religious discrimination,
Rabbi Regev said in an interview
in his office last week. "I was
quick to set the record straight.
"On the other hand, when
aslKed about issues confronting
mixed families, I saw no reason
and no way in which I could close
my eyes, my ears, my mouth, and
refuse, in a professional way, to
clarify what the facts were," he
said.
"I limited my response to those
areas where, unfortunately, the
problem is real and acute," he
said. "My letter did not recom-

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