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March 29, 2015 / 9 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Chief Rabbinate’

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.”

Israeli Chief Rabbinate Issues Restrictions on Mikvah Attendants

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate issued restrictions on the extent to which mikvah attendants may question and interact with women visiting the ritual baths.

According to a letter sent Monday from the Chief Rabbinate to Itim, an organization that helps Israelis navigate the rabbinate’s bureaucracy, mikvah attendants may not question women visiting the baths, nor may they require women to undergo specific rituals before immersing.

Women increasingly have filed complaints about such practices at public mikvahs.

“The attendant is meant to help the immersing women fulfill the commandment of immersion according to Jewish law, and the attendant must be available for that purpose, and to offer her assistance,” the letter read. “In addition, the attendant is not permitted to coerce customs, investigations or checks on the women against their will.”

Separate letters from Israeli Chief Rabbis Yitzchak Yosef and David Lau, and from Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, endorsed the new restrictions.

Yesh Atid lawmakerAliza Lavie proposed a bill earlier this month to restrict the authority of mikvah attendants. But the letter, which responded to a query sent in August by Itim, may make the measure irrelevant.

The letter said that instructions on proper immersion according to Jewish law would be posted at every mikvah “in order to improve service for the immersing women.”

Livni, Bennett Back Bill to Pretend Jews Need Only One Chief Rabbi

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Jewish Home chairman and Minister for Religious Affairs Naftali Bennett unveiled the outline Monday morning of their new bill to eliminate the system of a two-headed Chief Rabbinate and replace it with “one rabbi for one people.”

Modern Israel always has had two chief rabbis, one for the Ashkenazi community and one for the Sephardi community. Each community has vastly different traditions and different rulings on Jewish laws. Within each community there are several sub-cultures. There are “Yechi” Ashkenazi Jews. There are many different Chassidic sects, and there are “Litvak,” Misnagim,” Lubavitch-Chabad, Ger, Neturei Karta, Vishnitz and a host of others.

In Israel, there is no lack of different synagogues representing the origin of their worshippers’ families. There are Iraqi, Iranian (Parsi), Egyptian and Yemenite synagogues, to mention a few.

Livni, who is secular, and Bennett, who is modern Orthodox, each believe that one chief rabbi is enough for everyone,

Their bill would clear the way for a single chief rabbi in 10 years, when the next election will take place. Three months ago, Haredi Rabbi David Lau defeated national religious Rabbi David Stav to head the Ashkenazi rabbinate. Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef was elected Chief Sephardi Rabbi.

Both of the new chief rabbis are sons of two of the most popular men ever to serve as chief rabbi – Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who was highly controversial among those outside of Sephardi circles. Each man is a legend, and the thought of a single chief rabbi would have been unthinkable under their charismatic leadership.

Livni and Bennett insist they are not retrying to blur the lines of tradition. A single rabbi undoubtedly would save money, but finance is not part of their agenda.

“There is one prime minister, one president, one supreme court and one IDF Chief of Staff,” Livni said. The time has come that there should be one rabbi for one people, The time has some that Israel has one chief rabbi to unite all segments of Israeli society, [The time has come for] a rabbinate that will serve all religious sectors instead of a county that retains the separation of communities. It is possible to respect tradition in the house without separating religious authority,” she said.

Bennett chimed in, “This [bill] is an important step that symbolizes unity. The appointment of one rabbi is one of those subjects that raises the question, ‘Why wasn’t it done sooner?’ Today, when an Ashkenazi and Sephardi marry, there not two rabbis. Today, there is one army, and there are no separate positions for Ashkenazim or Sephardim.”

The idea sound so nice. All of the People of Israel will unite together, holding hands, dancing the hora and embracing each other with whole-hearted acceptance as a person and not as a “Sephardi” or “Ashkenazi.” Peace and love all wrapped up in a stewing pot of melted Jews.

Judaism has survived and blossomed since the 12 Tribes of Yaakov (Jacob) because of their unity as Jews and differences of character, personality and customs.

“One rabbi for one people” would discourage diversity. Obviously, a single chief rabbi would be an expert in different customs and would not issue a ruling that would violate a community’s customs. Sephardim would not be told to give up “kitniyot” for Passover and Ashkenazim would not start rising before dawn to recite Selichot prayers during the entire Hebrew month of Elul before Rosh HaShanah.

Regardless of whatever merits there may be to the bill, and despite probable enthusiasm from Israel’s leading secular media, the bill will have tough going.

Overcoming centuries of tradition in one Knesset session is a bit too much for Livni, the darling of dwindling leftist-center secular Israelis who did not vote for Yair Lapid and a villain to national religious Jews, including Bennett except for the one-rabbi bill. Bennett is riding a wave of secular support for his Jewish Home party, the inheritor of the old Mafdal crowd.

If the bill gets to the Knesset floor, it will provide lots of colorful copy for journalists. Shas will go berserk, and the United Torah Judaism party of Haredi Ashkenazi Jews will be able to sue Bennett for Livni for causing them a collective heart attack, God forbid.

Committee Sends Conversion Reform Bill to the Knesset

Monday, November 4th, 2013

See also: Brave New Nation: 30 New Rabbinical Courts to Process Conversions.

A bill that would allow local rabbis to oversee conversions will be introduced to the parliament after passing a Knesset committee.

Under the measure advanced Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, a city rabbi could convene a beit din, or rabbinical court, for conversions under his jurisdiction.

Conversions are handled in Israel by the Chief Rabbinate. The country now has four conversion courts; the bill would provide for about 30 more, each comprised of three rabbis.

The chief rabbis of Israel oppose the bill, saying it is not stringent enough on some areas of conversion, Haaretz reported. The bill “puts the halachic [Jewish legal] validity of conversions in Israel at risk,” the chief rabbis said in a statement, the newspaper reported.

Elazar Stern, a Modern Orthodox lawmaker from the Tzipi Livni Movement party, submitted the bill and said he plans to involve non-Orthodox denominations in adjusting the legislation.

The bill may undergo some changes before it reaches the Knesset for a preliminary reading, according to reports.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/committee-sends-conversion-reform-bill-to-the-knesset/2013/11/04/

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