Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky received about 100 Reform Jewish leaders and students to the Jerusalem Municipality yesterday. As mayor, it was his first meeting with representatives of any non-Orthodox Jewish religious movement.
The participants included Mr. Burton Lehman, Chairman of the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion Board of Governors, and Prof. Yoram Dinstein, Chairman of the institution's Jerusalem Board of Overseers, who are meeting in Jerusalem this week. Also present were some seventy HUC-JIR students from abroad who as part of their studies, are spending their first year in Jerusalem, as well as several students from the Israeli Program of Rabbinic Studies.
Before the Jerusalem Municipality elections two months ago when he was acting mayor, Mr. Lupoliansky had cancelled a scheduled meeting with representatives of the Reform movement. At that time, political commentators interpreted the action as a boycott, initiated at the behest of Mr. Lupoliansky's rabbinical mentors. However, in Sunday's meeting Lupoliansky said he was happy to meet with the group and added he hoped that such meetings could help reduce tension between factions in the city.
"I am happy you came, especially the students who came to learn about the people and land of Israel. I hope you will help me to establish peace within the city, just as the name of the city means city of peace," the Mayor told his guests.
Speaking on behalf of the visitors, Rabbi David Ellenson, President of HUC-JIR, said that he viewed the mayor's invitation as a rejection of the senseless hatred which, according to the sages, was the cause for the destruction of the Second Temple, an act marked by the fast of Tisha B'av, which falls on Thursday.
"As Tisha B'av approaches in only three days, we remember that our Temple was destroyed and our people dispersed because of the sin of senseless hatred. The greeting that you as Mayor of Jerusalem have extended to us at this time indicates that we will not fall prey to this sin again. We must all emphasize - for the sake of the Jewish people worldwide as well as the State of Israel - what that which unites us as Jews is far more important that that which separates us," Rabbi Ellenson told the Mayor.