The President's Residence is angry with Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel after it tried to hold a controversial ceremony at the Residence under the guise of a Bar Mitzvah party for disabled children.
The incident began about a month ago, when the mayor of Rehovot, Rahamim Malul, refused to cooperate with the ceremony which the Masorti Movement tried to organize in his city, as it was not an Orthodox religious ceremony. The Diaspora Affairs Ministry then intervened in the matter and drafted a compromise, according to which the President's Residence in Jerusalem would host the ceremony, which would be conducted either by Rabbi Dr. Benny Lau, a high-profile religious-Zionist figure, or with no rabbi at all.
According to the Masorti Movement, however, the President’s Residence also agreed as part of the deal to have a rabbi from the movement at the ceremony, but later broke that promise and abruptly canceled the participation of a Conservative rabbi who was supposed to preside over the ceremony along with Rabbi Lau.
The Movement then proceeded to get officials in Israel and the United States involved in the matter, who turned to the President's office demanding clarifications. The President made clear to these officials that the organizers emphasized that the President would be more than happy to welcome the children but refuses to be pulled into controversies. In addition it was clarified that the ceremony will not be able to be carried out unless it is presided by Rabbi Benny Lau.
The President’s Office told Arutz Sheva on Sunday: "The President accepted the request of the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs to allow a Bar Mitzvah ceremony without controversy and festivities. This invitation has not yet been responded to by the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and the invitation of the President and his wife to celebrate with the children at the Presidential Residence stands.
“Unfortunately, religious figures who seek to advance their goals while cynically using children, are refusing to accept any of the outlines proposed by the President and we can only regret this.
“In recent days, frantic attempts were made by the Director of the President’s Office and the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, along with the involvement of other factors, to find an agreed blueprint for the event in a manner that does not perpetuate the existence of the dispute, including holding the religious ceremony outside the Presidential Residence and having the children take part in a festive event in the Residence, or holding the ceremony inside the Presidential Residence without any rabbinical involvement of any movement, but these have also failed in view of the insistence of the Masorti Movement to adhere to the original plan to hold the ceremony itself. The President once again invites children for a festive and joyful reception that will place only them at the center of attention.”
It should be noted that, contrary to claims by officials in the Masorti Movement that Orthodox halakha (Jewish law) does not allow a Bar Mitzvahs for children with mental disabilities, several leading Orthodox rabbis have ruled over the generations and in recent years as well that Bar Mitzvah boys are indeed allowed to read from a Torah scroll and in certain circumstances may even be included in a minyan (prayer quorum of adult men), even in such cases.