web analytics
October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

The Chief Rabbinate’s New Deal

Israel's Chief Rabbinate

Israel's Chief Rabbinate

The impasse between the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and Rabbi Avi Weiss has been resolved. That is a good thing.

To suggest that Rabbi Weiss, who has been a crusader for the well-being of Jews across the globe for decades, can’t be believed to state that someone is Jewish and unmarried is preposterous. Everyone who knows him can attest that he is a man of honesty and integrity.

Rabbi Weiss has stated that the struggle for Rabbinate recognition is not about him. The Jerusalem Post quotes him as saying, “I will continue to speak out until all rabbis of the International Rabbinic Fellowship and the Rabbinical Council of America will be formally recognized for this purpose.”

Full disclosure – I am an Orthodox rabbi and a member of the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America (though I do not speak for the RCA). As such, I fully support the RCA’s conversion standards, and would only accept Orthodox standards of personal status. I also have great respect and admiration for Rabbi Weiss, who has been a beloved friend and mentor to various members of my family for over 40 years. While he and I disagree on a number of halachic issues, I recognize and appreciate that he has brought countless Jews to a life of affiliation to Torah.

However, I must respectfully take issue with my dear friend when he calls for expanding recognition beyond current standards.

I am not writing to argue the Modern Orthodox vs. Open Orthodox point of view. That is not the point of this article. I don’t expect to change anyone’s closely held religious beliefs in an op-ed piece. Rather, I want to explain why I think that even advocates of a more “open” standard of religious observance should also support the Rabbinate’s current position.

In some respects, nothing has changed. Rabbis whose letters the Chief Rabbinate accepted in the past will continue to be accepted.

If I, a presumably unknown entity to the Rabbinate, decide to write a letter stating that a person who is engaged to be married was born Jewish and has never been married, the RCA will endorse that letter and send it on to the Rabbinate.

If, however, I state in the letter that there is a divorce or conversion in that person’s background, the matter will be referred to the Beth Din of America (BDA) for further investigation. If that divorce and/or conversion are found to meet the high standards of the BDA, it will endorse the letter and send it on to the Rabbinate.

The main difference between the old system and the new one is that the investigations of these divorces and conversions will be handled by the BDA here in the U.S. rather than by the Rabbinate in Israel.

I am concerned by the suggestion that this agreement be extended to members of the International Rabbinic Fellowship.

Recently, Open Orthodox Rabbi Zev Farber of the IRF called for taking on the agunah problem by invalidating or retroactively annulling marriages. While it is admirable that he seeks to find creative ways to put an end to this terrible situation, he is making a very big mistake. The overwhelming majority of Orthodox experts (including the Chief Rabbinate) follow the rulings of Rabbis Feinstein and Soloveitchik and others who reject this approach. The end result could be that Modern Orthodox and haredi Jews will refuse to marry the children of women who remarry after receiving this annulment.

Some have suggested that we emulate Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel, who coexisted and even intermarried (with each other) in spite of differences of opinion of marital status. The way they did it was by informing each other about whom they could marry and whom they couldn’t.

But is Rabbi Farber really prepared to issue a certificate of divorce to a woman that states, “This woman may remarry according to Open Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist standards; however, her children will be mamzeirim according to Modern Orthodox and haredi standards”?

This will, in effect, create two Nations of Israel. (Now that a new bet din has been established to tackle the agunah problem, I hope it won’t make the mistake of following rulings that have been discredited by the Orthodox rabbinical community.)

Do we really want a situation in the state of Israel where there is more than one standard of divorce and conversion? Do we really want a situation where a man and a woman meet in college (or in the army) and are afraid to get to know each other better because they don’t know if the two of them will be able to marry according to all standards of Jewish law?

The current Chief Rabbinate paradigm is not perfect. There are flaws in every system. God is perfect and His Torah is perfect, but the rest of us have to work on it.

That being said, loosening standards of conversion, marriage, and divorce would run the risk of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

About the Author: Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz, a mohel (BrisRabbi.com) and chaplain in Monsey, NewYork, is a member of the executive committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. His blog on the weekly Torah portion can be read at TorahTalk.org.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “The Chief Rabbinate’s New Deal”

  1. There is nothing more pathological than the attempt of the Orthodox Rabbinate of our day to set all kinds of limitations on accepting conversions. For the first time in Jewish history, non-Jews seek to throw in their lot with the House of Israel, thus healing the wounds and the losses of the Holocaust and Rabbis use this as an excuse to engage in denominational politics. Sick! Absurd! and terrible judgement! In point of fact the laws in the Shulchan Aruch are much more accepting of converts than the Orthodox Rabbinate of today. Just study it
    Rabbi Ephraim Yisrael Rubinger

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat meet with security officials over Oct. 22 terror attack.
Netanyahu Convenes Top Brass in Jerusalem Over Terror Attack
Latest Indepth Stories
Bills to restore the balance of power in Israel will be fought by the not-so-judicial left.

Widespread agreement in Israel opposing Palestinian diplomatic warfare, commonly called “lawfare.”

Chaye Zisel Braun

Arab terrorism against Jews and the State of Israel is not something we should be “calm” about.

Peace Now Chairman Yariv Oppenheimer

The Israeli left, led by tenured academics, endorses pretty much anything harmful to its own country

Grave site of terror victim Leon Klinghoffer.

We were devastated: The exploitation of our father’s murder as a vehicle for political commentary.

Judea and Samaria (Yesha) have been governed by the IDF and not officially under Israeli sovereignty

While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

n past decades, Oman has struck a diplomatic balance between Saudi Arabia, the West, and Iran.

The Torah scroll which my family donated will ride aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier

The Jewish Press endorses the reelection of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His record as governor these past four years offers eloquent testimony to the experience and vision he has to lead the Empire State for the next four years.

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.

Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.

Turkey and Iran the 2 regional powers surrounding the ISIS conflict gain from a partial ISIS victory

More Articles from Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz
Israel's Chief Rabbinate

Everyone who knows Rabbi Weiss can attest that he is a man of honesty and integrity.

jewish family

Mrs. Cohen displayed that simple, unquestioning, adamant adherence to Torah-true Judaism that typifies many of our German-Jewish brethren.

Is it appropriate for players like Tim Tebow to make grand gestures of prayer to a Master of the World Who has His Hands full dealing with much more important things?

Many years ago when I was helping my congregation write a new constitution, I submitted a first draft to an expert who had been involved in setting up new shuls.

One paragraph read, “All matters of halacha (Jewish law) will be determined by the congregational rabbi.” Pretty straightforward, I thought.

The election season is upon us. Once again, we are being called on to select the next leader of the free world.

The pope has generated a bit of controversy.

First, he permitted congregations to go back to the old custom of praying in Latin. (More about that later.) Then he announced that only the Catholic Church qualifies as a real church. Protestants, as far as the pope is concerned, simply don’t make the grade!

Yes, Torah lives on. Yes, the Lubliner Rav’s dream lives on. THEY WERE SINGING AND DANCING IN YESHIVA CHACHMEI LUBLIN!

Could it be that the Founding Fathers gave the gift of America to the world on a day that Jews were fasting?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-chief-rabbinates-new-deal/2014/01/30/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: