06/27/2014 01:32 pm ET Updated Aug 27, 2014

An Open Letter to President Rivlin From the Rabbi Whose Synagogue You Once Scorned

Dear President Rivlin:

Tomorrow night I depart for Israel, where I will study once again at the Shalom Hartman Institute. My teacher, Rabbi David Hartman, of blessed memory, founded the Hartman Institute to promote religious tolerance and diversity of thought in Judaism. In that spirit, and in honor of his sacred work, I extend this invitation to you.

In the late '80s you visited my congregation, Temple Emanu-El in Westfield New Jersey as part of a delegation of Knesset members. Although I was not rabbi here at the time, I am told it was a pleasant and cordial visit.

However, upon your return to Israel you gave an interview in which you declared that my congregants engaged in "idol worship" and that Reform Judaism was "not Judaism" -- despite the fact that you admitted that you yourself were unobservant. Needless to say, as a congregation devoted in its Zionism and support of Israel, we were dismayed by your comments.

Now that you are president of Israel, I would like to extend to you an open and sincere invitation to join us in Westfield, NJ for any Shabbat of your choosing. We would be honored to host you and let you experience the joyful worship of our community. In addition, I read that Rabbi Avi Shafran of the Agudath Israel echoed your comments about us in a recent article. Please let Rabbi Shafran know he is welcome as well.

In respect and with sincere wishes for your presidency,

Rabbi Doug Sagal
Senior Rabbi
Temple Emanu-El