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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Chief Rabbinate’

Conversion Reform Bill Advances in Knesset

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

A bill that would allow more rabbis to conduct conversions in Israel advanced in the Knesset.

The coalition government-backed bill passed its first reading by a vote of 28 to 16 in the Knesset plenum on Monday night.

Under the measure, as many as 30 courts made up of municipal rabbis would be allowed for the purpose of conversion. Currently there are four state rabbinic courts with the authority to conduct conversions.

The Chief Rabbinate, which would see its power reduced under the measure, said it will stop cooperating with the Knesset if the bill is approved, the Times of Israel reported Monday. The Rabbinate, which reportedly is working on a compromise bill, is concerned the measure will lead to a deterioration of conversion standards.

Sponsored by lawmaker Elazar Stern of the Hatnua party, an observant Jew, the bill passed the Knesset Law Committee earlier on Monday.

Police Want Rabbi Metzger on Trial for Bribery Charges

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Police from Israel’s Major Crime Unit have recommended that former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger be put on trial for charges of bribery, money laundering and breach of public trust.

The recommendation revealed more details of alleged criminal violations, including the rabbi’s allegedly pocketing money for his participation in a ceremony in Poland marking 70 years since the Warsaw Ghetto Rebellion and for speeding up conversions.

As previously reported, the rabbi also is accused of putting in his personal pocket half of funds that were raised for charities, including seminaries and a yeshiva.

Knesset Bill to Cut Number of Chief Rabbis by 50%

Monday, January 20th, 2014

The Knesset Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted Sunday to approve the legislation to create one chief rabbi’s position instead of the current two, proposed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of the Hatnua Party, and co-sponsored by Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett and lawmaker Eli Ben-Dahan of the Jewish Home Party.

The bill must be approved by the Cabinet and then pass three readings in the Knesset in order to pass. It would take effect after the ten-year terms of the current chief rabbis, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, expire.

That’s ten years from now. Ten years of double the expenses, double the needless waste.

The fact is, Israel has no need for a chief rabbi—check that, it has no use for a chief rabbi.

Imagine if you will, that someone in the U.S. were to appoint a chief rabbi. Who would listen to him? Not the non-Orthodox, because they either have their own take on halacha-Jewish law, or follow no halacha at all. Presuming the American chief rabbi would be Orthodox, that would eliminate half the Jews in America. Then come the secular Jews, and they would have no need at all for a chief rabbi, because there’s nothing he could say or do that touches on the reality of their lives.

Out of the Orthodox, all the Haredim, both Chassidim and Litwacks, would sneer at the idea that anyone would presume to replace the authority of their rebbe or rosh yeshiva.

So who’s left? Probably the RCA crowd, your everyday frumies, the Jewish Press readers. But the chief rabbi would be—because that’s how these things roll—a Haredi, and the moderate-to-liberal Orthodox won’t have much use for him either.

And that’s the situation in Israel. The chief rabbinate is a goiter on the neck of Israeli Jews, a remnant from a time when the Ottoman Empire, followed by the British Empire, appointed a religious chief over every ethnic group in Palestine. Even back in the 1920s that position bore little more than a symbolic value, depending on the chief rabbi. Today the situation is that Israelis are serving the chief rabbinate rather than the other way around.

Besides being entirely alien to the spiritual needs of the vast majority of Israelis, the chief rabbinate actually stifles the organic growth of religious communities. Siphoning off much needed budgets from social services to the needy, in a country where half the population is poor or near-poor, why spend money on an elaborate service nobody needs?

Local Jewish communities have always been very good at keeping records of marriages and burials. The burial societies, the “Chevra Kadisha,” don’t need a chief rabbi to monitor them – the state comptroller should be very good at that. Concentrating control over the Jewish life cycle in Israel in the hands of Haredi chief rabbis and judges with little or no relationship with the people under their domain is tyranny. Expensive tyranny at that.

So why wait ten years to cut this silliness in half? Cut it now, both halves. Give power back to the local Jewish communities. Let local rabbis decide halacha for their followers wherever they are, just as they’ve been doing in America, or, before the war, in Poland. Wherever we’ve had a thriving, magnificent Jewish community, we didn’t need a chief rabbi. Those were more likely to be state appointed than part of the people they were supposed to serve.

Just like in today’s Israel.

“In a state where there is only one president, one Supreme Court president, one prime minister and one chief of general staff, there is no way to justify the doubling of the position of chief rabbi,” Tzipi Livni said. “We have to rid ourselves of the old-fashioned division of ancestral congregations and start bringing the country together.”

Chief Rabbinate Backs Down, Accepts Rabbi Avi Weiss

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has reversed its stand and said it will accept letters from Rabbi Avi Weiss confirming the Judaism of those who wish to wed in the country.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Weiss’ attorney in Israel, Assaf Ben-Melech, the Chief Rabbinate affirmed its position on the liberal Orthodox rabbi from New York.

In October, the Chief Rabbinate rejected a letter from Rabbi Weiss vouching for immigrants who wanted to marry in Israel pending an investigation into his adherence to traditional Jewish law. The move sparked widespread outrage that Rabbi Weiss, a longtime synagogue leader in New York who had vouched for the Jewishness of many Israeli immigrants in the past, was suddenly having his reliability called into question.

Naftali Bennett, Israel’s religious services minister and Diaspora Affairs minister, has been meeting since November with officials from the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America and the Chief Rabbinate to resolve the issue.

He reportedly sees the issue as one of prime importance based on the potential negative impact it could have on Israel-Diaspora relations.

Weiss founded the liberal Orthodox rabbinical seminary Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and has pioneered a number of controversial innovations in the Orthodox world, most recently his decision to ordain women as clergy through a new seminary called Yeshivat Maharat.

“I appreciate that this injustice has been corrected and am deeply grateful for the overwhelming support I received from all over the world,” Weiss said in a statement. “I also urge the Chief Rabbinate to reflect on how it can help us reach out, respect and acknowledge all Jews in the Diaspora.”

Jewish Congressman Concerned over Rabbinate Boycott of Avi Weiss Flock

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

New York Rep. Eliot L. Engel sent a letter to Benjamin Netanyahu to express his concern over the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s decision to reject Jewish status letters written by Rabbi Avi Weiss.

Engel, the senior Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in the letter to Israel’s prime minister dated Jan. 10 that: “This trend of rejecting status letters written by Rabbi Weiss and others undermines the bond between Diaspora communities and the state of Israel, and I fear, may ultimately lead to the wholesale prohibition on community rabbis in the Diaspora from participating in the religious life of Jewish people in Israel.”

Weiss is one of Engel’s constituents. Both the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, which Weiss led for nearly 40 years, and the Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, which Weiss founded, also are located in Engel’s congressional district.

Late last year, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel rejected a letter vouching for the Jewishness of an American couple marrying in Israel written by well-known Weiss, as well as the letters of at least 10 rabbis in other cases,

A letter vouching for a couple’s Jewishness and singlehood has been required for decades from every couple wishing to marry in Israel.

The Chief Rabbinate decided several years ago that it would no longer automatically recognize conversions performed by Orthodox rabbis in the Diaspora, and agreed to accept those of a limited number of approved rabbinical courts, or batei din.

Engel said he is concerned that the Chief Rabbinate’s decision to reject Weiss’ letter “is simply the latest instance of the broader marginalization of the many diverse streams of Judaism in Israel. If Rabbi Weiss’ credentials are rejected – an Orthodox leader with decades of experience – what does that portend for other strands of American Judaism?”

Engel wrote that it is “profoundly inappropriate for the Chief Rabbinate to cast aspersions on any individual’s commitment to Jewish traditions simply because of differing religious customs and practices.”

Engel left for Israel Sunday as part of Vice President Joe Biden’s delegation to the funeral for former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Sharansky Supporting Rabbi Avi Weiss vs. Rabbinate, RCA

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky has released the following statement regarding the debate surrounding Rabbi Avi Weiss:

“Rabbi Avi Weiss is a prominent leader of the Modern Orthodox Jewish world. By his teachings and his personal example, he has inspired and raised generations of Jews in the spirit of kol yisra’el arevim zeh la-zeh (the principle that all Jews are responsible for one another) and with a deep commitment to the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

“Rabbi Weiss’s commitment and integrity are beyond reproach, which is why I find the ongoing discussion about his Rabbinic credentials absurd.

“As Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency, I would like to state clearly that our shlichim (emissaries) will continue to honor Rabbi Weiss’s certifications and recommendations, as we have been proud to do up until now.”

Rabbi Weiss complained recently that the Israeli Chief rabbinate and the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) were in cahoots to disqualify “Liberal Orthodox” rabbis by the Rabbinate refusing to honor their recommendation of their congregants as proper Jews.

As we wrote here earlier, this created a situation in which the largely anti-Zionist Rabbinate, comprised of wall-to-wall Haredim, was collaborating with the RCA, catering mostly to Orthodox Jews who are comfortable staying in New Jersey – to block Zionist Orthodox American Jews from making aliyah.

Hopefully, this madness will be corrected now, possibly with some additional help from Minister of Religious Services Naftali Bennett, who dropped the ball this year on electing a National Religious Chief Rabbi.

Only Bennett Can Solve the Avi Weiss Conundrum – He Caused It

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

The failure of Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett to enforce the election of Rabbi David Stav as Chief Rabbi is now coming to haunt Modern Orthodoxy both here and in America, on the very issue that’s most crucial to us: promoting immigration of Zionist, Orthodox American Jews to Israel.

Having a Haredi administration run our Israeli Chief Rabbinate, which almost never really caters to the Haredim and constitutes a kind of colonialist rule of the black hats over the knitted yarmulkes, is annoying most times of the year. But now, as it turns out, it is actually suppressing the aliyah of the very American Jews this country is hungry for: Modern Orthodox folks, with professions and values and money and religious sanity.

Dozens of American Modern Orthodox rabbis have been complaining that the rabbinate in Israel has been refusing to accept their letters of recommendation regarding members of their congregation preparing to make aliyah. This is because the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), mainstream Orthodox, has been telling the Israeli Rabbinate that the Modern Orthodox rabbis are the same as Conservative and Reform. So the Rabbinate, inherently suspicious of anyone in a colorful jacket, is no longer paying attention to the likes of Rabbi Avi Weiss.

“In recent days, I have been informed that letters I’ve written attesting to the Jewishness and personal status of congregants have been rejected by the office of the Chief Rabbinate,” Rabbi Weiss wrote recently. “I’m not the only Orthodox rabbi to have his letters rejected – there are others.”

Weiss reports that “the Chief Rabbinate have denied letters from me or other rabbis without input from select rabbis here in America who, I believe, are whispering into the Chief Rabbinate’s ears. For me, they’ll whisper one thing, for another they will find some other reason to cast aspersions.”

And so, the most vital aspect of Zionist Judaism – living in Zion – is now being handled by the RCA, which caters to Orthodox Jews who live comfortably in New Jersey and don’t dream of going anywhere else soon, except to visit, and the Haredi Rabbinate which has no influence at all on anti-Zionist Haredi Americans who do make aliyah.

Modern Orthodox Jews, Zionist Jews, pro-settlement Jews, have always suffered from an inability to communicate our case to the masses. Somehow, we always end up being defined by others, and those “others” more often than not don’t like us and are deeply ignorant of what we’re actually about.

Rabbi Avi Weiss, one of the most courageous and at the same time sweetest people I know, finds himself, after years of dedicating his life to Jews and to Judaism, being put in a kind of boycott by people who have done less than him and, in general, aren’t worthy of carrying his umbrella for him, if he had one.

Joel Brand, who risked his life to try and save Hungarian Jews from the Nazis only to become the victim of a despicable scandal, once said that there are three types of outcomes to every war: there are those who die in battle and they come home to great fanfare; then there are those who come back alive, and they’re most likely to face a court martial; and, finally, there are those who didn’t fight at all, and they’re most likely to be the judges in said court martial.

The largely anti-Zionist Rabbinate, in cahoots with the largely disinterested in aliyah RCA, are collaborating to keep the congregants of actively pro-Zionist shuls from immigrating to Israel, by treating shomer Shabbat Modern Orthodox rabbis as Reform.

Rabbi Avi Weiss has been a pioneer in using halachic tools to meet the challenges of the negative forces in the Jewish body politic, namely the Reform movement, and, to a lesser extent, the Conservative. I heard of him originally when he was busy chaining himself to various fences, protesting abuses against Soviet Jury, followed by rallies against the abuse of Israeli settlers by their own government.

Proposed Law Aims at Tighter Kosher Food Enforcement

Monday, December 30th, 2013

The Knesset will discuss and vote on a  new bill to give official kosher food inspectors powers to make sure that restaurants and other public places that are certified as kosher live up to their commitment.

The Israeli media immediately labeled the supervisors the “Kashrus Police,” implying some kind of Saudi or Iranian religious goon squad.

No one in Israel is forced to operate kosher facility, but those who do so must pay for visits by a “mashgiach” of the Chief Rabbinate, who makes sure that vegetables have been tithed, that daily and meat utensils are not mixed up and that only kosher ingredients are used.

However, the inspectors are not able to enter any place with the approval of the owner. They also are not allowed to take samples of food without the owner’s permission.

Chief Rabbi David Lau explained that the proposed new measures to let the supervisors enter the facilities are meant to make sure that people eating kosher are in fact eating kosher. The Chief Rabbinate’s Kashrut Fraud Prevention Unit will have uniforms and badges, if the bill becomes law.

That was enough to give the headline writers a field say. Yediot Acharonot’s English Ynet website wrote, “Israel set to get ‘kashrut police,” and the Times of Israel headlined, ”New ‘kashrut police’ planned by Religious Affairs Ministry.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/proposed-law-aims-at-tighter-kosher-food-enforcement/2013/12/30/

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