Bennett won’t endorse Lapid’s candidate for Jewish Agency head, offensive to Orthodox Jews

“Someone who boasts of her eating bread and an orange at her Passover Seder sends a hurtful message to the overwhelming majority of world Jewry,” said Rabbi Pesach Lerner.

By World Israel News staff

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will not endorse Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s candidate for head of the Jewish Agency, former MK Ruth Calderon, due to her unusual approach to Judaism, sources close to Bennett have said.

Calderon was filmed during a panel discussion aired on the Knesset Channel saying that she puts bread on her seder plate instead of matzah to remember the poor. “Not Jewish Agency material,” was the verdict from a source close to Bennett, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Making his announcement Wednesday, Lapid said: “I’ve proposed Dr. Ruth Calderon to serve as Jewish Agency chair. Dr Calderon, who holds a PhD in Talmud and today leads ALMA, a Tel Aviv-based cultural & intellectual center, is an exemplary leader who will serve Israel and the Jewish people with distinction.”

He added: “Dr. Ruth Calderon is a role model who will represent us at the Jewish Agency with a deep knowledge of Jewish history and the challenges of the future.”

Calderon was a lawmaker from 2013 to 2015 in Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, where she served as Deputy Speaker, member of the education and state control committees, and Chairperson of the Lobby for Jewish Renewal.

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She is also a prominent figure within Reform Jewry, having founded Israel’s first secular center for Torah and talmudic studies, and the Alma secular Jewish studies center, in addition to penning children’s Talmudic story books.

Calderon holds a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Talmud from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and honorary doctorates from Brandeis University, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and Hebrew College in Boston.

However, her nomination is likely to be vetoed by at least two members of the 10-member selection committee, which would be enough to disqualify her candidacy. One veto is likely to come from the orthodox World Mizrachi, while another member of the panel commented: “I am not Reform, so why should I back her?”

Rabbi Pesach Lerner, a member of the Agency’s board of governors, was scathing in his assessment of her suitability.

“The new chairperson of the Jewish Agency must be a unifier, someone who can bring together the varied Jewish communities throughout the Jewish world,” Lerner said.

“Someone who boasts of her eating bread and an orange at her Passover Seder sends a hurtful message to the overwhelming majority of world Jewry that she doesn’t share their tradition and values. Her appointment would politicize JAFI, internally and externally, and seriously damage the confidence world Jewry has in the Jewish Agency. Her appointment would compromise the Agency’s sacred mission.”