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

Posts Tagged ‘Chief Rabbinate’

Rav Ovadia Attacks Tzohar Rabbi David Stav

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

The campaign for Chief Rabbi in Israel got uglier Saturday night with Shas party’s spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef saying in his weekly address that Tzohar Rabbi does “not have the fear God.”

Rabbi Stab has staged an unprecedented campaign to promote himself for Chief Rabbi. His candidacy is supported by most national religious leaders and stiffly opposed by most of the Haredi community.

Rabbi Yosef, who was hospitalized briefly last week after he fell unconscious temporarily, warned that Rabbi Stas is “dangerous to Judaism.”

Is the Chief Rabbinate to Blame?

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

I don’t know who Rabbi Gideon D. Sylvester is. Never met him or heard about him until now. A quick search on the internet informs me that he lives in Jerusalem, is a human rights activist, and a member in good standing of Britain’s United Synagogue. That is the umbrella organization of Britain’s non Hassidic Orthodox Jewish establishment that Lord Jonathan Sacks heads. I have no clue what Rabbi Sylvester’s Hashkafos are. But on this subject I am one with him.

Rabbi Sylvester has penned an article in Ha’aretz that I believe highlights one of the biggest reasons why so many secular Jews in Israel reject observant Judaism. He blames the Israeli Chief Rabbinate for it. This may be an over-simplification but I think he is on to something. It is the very same thing I talk about quite often here. The religious right.

By example he tells the story of a secular Jewish Israeli who refused to wear a Kipa under the hupah at his own wedding. When asked why and told that even British Royalty wear a Kipa when entering a synagogue as a sign of respect , his answer was that as a Jew he had a right to practice Judaism as he saw fit. It is one thing for a non Jew to show signs of respect. He saw wearing a Kipa – something he does not believe in – as a form of religious coercion.

That took me aback. In 2013 it is rare to find a Jew so far removed from observant Judaism that he will not don a Kipa in similar circumstances. I recall channel surfing a couple of months ago and stopping on one of those ‘bachelorette’ programs where a man gets to choose from a group of women who he will marry (or vise versa).

Personally I can’t stand this form of entertainment (…and I use the word entertainment loosely). That episode happened to be the season finale and the man and his chosen bride were getting married. I stopped on that program because I noticed that it was a Jewish wedding. How did I know that? Because the bridegroom was wearing a Kipa. There was nothing else on that show that was even remotely Jewish. The women he chose wasn’t even Jewish. The man officiating was not Jewish. The ceremony was civil. And yet the Jewish bridegroom still felt that wearing a Kipa was the right thing to do.

But the above mentioned Israeli would have no part of that. Why? I believe that Rabbi Sylvester quite correctly blames the way the Israeli Chief Rabbinate is perceived. It is perceived as coercive. I would add that the Israeli Rabbinate is but it one cog in that coercive wheel. The way the religious right has been acting lately reinforces the image of ‘Gimee mine and get lost’.

The religious right may believe that God is on their side… that they are fighting for a Torah way of life and that the current government wants to destroy it. I completely disagree with their take, but I can understand why they feel that way. Even if one would concede their point that does not mean they have to behave in such a negative off-putting manner. Doing so is what creates and perpetuates bridegrooms like that Israeli.

The irony – says Rabbi Sylvester is that secular Israelis like him are people that are ready to lay down their lives for their people. All of them including the religious right of both Haredim and extremist Religious Zionists. And yet he is so angered by their religious coercion and behavior that he refuses to have anything at all to do with any symbols of observant Judaism.

The question is – why are many non Jews so much more respectful of Judaism than this fellow is? Rabbi Sylvestor tells us about the relationship Margret Thatcher had with the former Chief Rabbi of England, Lord Immanuel Jakobovitz – and later with current Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. So enamored was she with Lord Jakobovitz that she was the one who had him placed in the House of Lords. He was her “favorite man of God.” Why? Well I can tell you one thing. It was not because of religious coercion. It was because he exemplified the best of Jewish values to the world:

Although she was a believing Christian leading a Christian country, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher held the British chief rabbi, Immanuel Jakobovitz, in the highest regard. She recognized in him a religious integrity which she felt was lacking in her church, so she consulted with him regularly…

Rabbi Jakobovitz, his successor, and other prominent Orthodox rabbis commanded similar respect. Those rabbis understood how to act like a Jew in public They understood Jewish ethics. They understood that acting the way they did was the Jewish way to act. And the result was a Kiddush HaShem. One that can bring justifiable pride in being a Jew even if one is not observant.

In Israel today, how many of our religious leaders instill pride in being Jewish into the secular public? There was a time where one could easily answer that question. Rabbis Haim Shmuelvitz, Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and Yisroel Zev Gustman come to mind. How many religious leaders act like they did in public? How many expressed the Hakoras HaTov to the army as did R’ Shmulevitz and R’ Gustman? How many expressed sensitivity to a secular Jew as did R’ Auerbach – by not embarrassing a secular woman on a bus because she was immodestly dressed. He got off at the next bus stop much sooner than he had to so she would not think he got up because of her. He walked an extra two blocks so as not to embarrass her.

Compare that to the harsh rhetoric of today. As Rabbi Sylvester clearly points out at the end of his excellent article:

While the Israeli rabbinate is full of excellent scholars and fine individuals, rabbinic voices of decency and integrity are too often drowned out by the shrill, wicked cries of the religious and ultra-nationalist fanatics.

Our Israeli religious leaders must be associated not only with a strong Israel, but also with ethical, caring and compassionate leadership. They must speak out for Israel’s majority, and also for its minorities, for those who are learned in the law and those who are not. Then, I imagine that wearing a kippa under the [h]uppah will be far less of an issue for our many of our fellow Jews.

I could not agree more.

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Ten of Thousands at Funeral of Son of Rav Ovadia Yosef

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Tens of thousands of people participated Friday afternoon in the funeral procession of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, the eldest son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, former Chief Rabbi of Israel and of the most influential rabbis in Israel.

Yaakov Yosef died Friday afternoon at the age of 66, succumbing to a long struggle with cancer, after being hospitalized at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem. He was buried in Jerusalem before the start of Shabbat.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu mourned the loss of Yosef, calling him “a great teacher and adjudicator of Jewish law who followed in the path of his father.

The Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yona Metzger, eulogized Yosef, saying his passing is “a great loss to the people of Israel, to the land of Israel, and to the world of halacha.”

Yosef, the rabbi of the Haredi Givat Moshe neighborhood in Jerusalem and of the Hazon Yaakov Yeshiva, was one of the most influential right-wing rabbis

US Jewish Women’s Council Wants Israel to Certify Civil Marriages

Monday, April 8th, 2013

The National Council of Jewish Women called on the Jewish state to create a system of civil marriage and divorce in what was seen as a landmark move.

“The monopoly of authority given to Orthodox rabbinical courts in Israel regarding issues of personal status, particularly marriage, weakens rather than strengthens the state itself by causing disunity, disrespect for the law, and even hostility among Israelis and between Israel and Jews abroad,” according to a statement released Monday by the NCJW board of directors.

Rabbi David Saperstein, the director of the Reform movements Religious Action Center, said it was the first time a mainstream U.S. Jewish group joined non-Orthodox groups in making such a call.

“What’s important to me is that an organization beyond the religious streams is beginning to call for that,” he told JTA. “That’s an important step forward. I deeply commend the NCJW for doing so and ask all Jewish organizations to join the fight for freedom of marriage.”

The women’s group cited “democratic values and civil liberties” as two reasons Israel should grant its wishes. It also claimed that the lack of civil marriages forces “thousands of Israeli couples every year to leave Israel for a civil marriage abroad” and alienates “approximately 350,000 Israeli citizens from the former Soviet Union” who are not considered Jewish according to halacha.”

Civil marriages may or may not be suitable for Israel, which has a major problem coming up with a solution to heart-wrenching situations, such as that of divorced Kohenim. And even the predominantly orthodox Jewish Home party backed its non-secular Knesset Member Ayelet Shaked for coming out in support of civil marriages.

But the use of the terms “monopoly” and “civil liberties” is a populist tool to undermine the power of the Israeli Rabbinate, and the complicated issue of civil marriages is not addressed except as a matter of “democracy.”

It indeed could be said that orthodox rabbis have a monopoly in Israel. It also can be said that the American Medical Association has a monopoly on who can practice medicine and the Bar Association can decide who can practice law.

Would you call someone who has learned alternative medicine – and skips over six years of medical school – a doctor? If you change the definition of “doctor,” the answer is “yes.”

And what if someone wants to become a Reform rabbi?

Well, it seems that the evil “monopoly” also applies to the Reform movement.

Do you want to become a Reform rabbi? There are several small seminaries whose rabbis claim to be Reform, but if you want to be accepted by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), you have to play by their rules.

One of  Judaism’s rules is “Who is a Jew?”,  an issue that has sharply divided Reform and Orthodox Jewry.

The Women’s Council is very concerned for Israelis from the Soviet Union who are not recognized as Jews.

But why?

Many of those “Jews” are not even Jews by the most liberal of standards. Under the government of Ariel Sharon, tens of thousands of people, and probably closer to 300,000, were allowed to make aliyah even though neither of their parents was Jewish. And it is questionable whether they want to be Jewish, unless it does not require any commitment to anything.

The question remains whether the National Council of Jewish Women’s declaration is a move for the sake of Israeli Jewry or for the sake of destroying centuries-old acceptance of developing Jewish in orthodox Judaism.

To the NCJW’s credit, its opinions, even if politically oriented, are no less important than anyone else’s and serve as part of the verbal warfare that has been part and parcel of Jewish thought, as evidenced in the Talmud.

Raising the issue could add pressure on the Israeli Rabbinate to address the issue of civil marriages, and that in itself may strengthen the orthodox “monopoly” in Israel.

Shas’s Attacks on the Jewish Home and Religious Equality

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is working very hard to ensure that Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jews are all given equal treatment: Until recently, Conservative and Reform Jews had felt very alienated by the Israel Chief Rabbinate, but Orthodox Jews did not.

Recognizing the inherent unfairness in this, for the last few years, the Rabbinate has been taking dramatic steps to ensure that Orthodox Jews also feel just as alienated.

Jewish Week: Jerusalem — About 20 years ago, an infant girl (“Nina,” a pseudonym) from an Orthodox family underwent a conversion in New York that, by Orthodox American standards, was and still is beyond reproach.

The three converting rabbis, whose names The Jewish Week has withheld so as not to harm their reputations, are highly respected figures in the mainstream Orthodox Jewish world, according to Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, president of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA).

But that hasn’t stopped Israel’s Chief Rabbinate or Israel’s Ministry of Interior from questioning the conversion, evidently because it took place in a synagogue-based beit din (rabbinical court) that did not meet on a regular basis, and not in an external beit din dedicated solely to conversions, The Jewish Week has learned.

Read more of the world class treatment the Israel Chief Rabbinate in thisarticle by the Jewish Week.

None of this should be surprising especially in light of the blistering attacks from Shas on the “Jewish Home” (Religious Zionist party) before the elections by R’ Ovadya Yosef:

“They call them the ‘Jewish Home’ but this is not a home for Jews; it is a home of goyim [gentiles],” Yosef said. “They want to uproot the Torah, to institute civil marriage. It’s forbidden to vote for them. These are religious people? Anyone who votes for them denies the Torah.”

“They are all wicked, haters of Torah and mitzvot. They want to institute public transportation on Shabbat,” Yosef charged. “A Jew who wants to marry won’t have to go to the rabbinate — have you heard? How can they call themselves religious? How can we be complicit in this?” (Times of Israel)

Shas is so proud of these statements, that the official Shas party channel on youtube publicized the video (sorry it’s only in Hebrew).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1NDnxcmqF0]

And then, in case some misguided soul thinks this was only pre-election nonsense, the Shas party newspaper “Yom L’Yom” attacked the Jewish Home party:

Translation: The man with the kipa the size of an eye personifies how his kipa is the size of a “half shekel coin.”  The agreement he is working hard on creating with the chairman of the new-old hatred party [Yesh Atid party] shows that “something new is happening here [ "something new is happening" was the campaign slogan of the Jewish Home party]. Something Reform. Something “Goyish.” “Remember what Amalek did to you” which tried to weaken the Torah — this is an eternal concept.  Also in Israel. G-d forbid,  a new “Jewish Home” is being created.  Those who wish to weaken the Torah aren’t part of a “Jewish Home” — it is a house of “Goyim.”

The Torah and Judaism survived for thousands of years before the Shas party, and will continue to survive and flourish even if the Shas party is not a member of the government.  In fact, based on the situation above, Torah will probably flourish more with Shas out of the government, and hopefully the Chief Rabbinate will revert back to a Rabbinate for all of Israel, with tolerance and justice for all.

And until R’ Ovadya Yosef publicly apologizes for lambasting the “Jewish Home,” the “Jewish Home” party should ignore Shas completely.

Editor’s Note: Shas co-chairman Eli Yishai called Jewish Home MK Uri Ariel to apologize about the attack in the publication, but Yosef has made no apology for his remarks.

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Prosecution Charging Former Chief Rabbi with Aggravated Fraud

Monday, December 24th, 2012

On Monday, the Jerusalem District Attorney indicted former chief rabbi, Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron, over his involvement in “Parashat Harabbanim” (Rabbigate), Srugim reports. In recent years, several rabbis have been indicted for allegedly issuing false ordination certificates to some 1,500 military and police officials, allowing them to fraudulently collect hundreds of millions from the state in improved pay.

According to the indictment, Rabbi Bakshi Doron has known about the issuing of false ordination certificates since 2007. The indictment charges Rabbi Bakshi Doron, among other things, with obtaining an item through fraud under aggravating circumstances, fraud, and breach of trust.

The indictment refers to the activities of Rabbi Bakshi Doron during his tenure as chief rabbi, from 1993 to 2003. At that time, the security forces allowed police and IDF officers and NCOs to receive a salary increase if they could produce a certificate of rabbinic ordination.

As a result, during the years 1999-2003 private classes for pay were being offered to security professionals, with the goal of enabling participants to get after their graduation a certificate from the Chief Rabbinate, recognizing them as “ordained for rabbinic service.” These classes were run in many cases by prominent rabbis in positions of seniority in Israel’s rabbinic establishment.

Rabbi Bakshi Doron has been interrogated once, in 2007, with a warning, but ultimately it was decided his degree of involvement in the case did not merit an indictment. The decision to renew the investigation in the case came after the rabbi gave a new version of the facts in a court appearance which contradicted an earlier version he had given during his police interrogation.

The prosecution stated that Rabbi Bakshi Doron is suspected of instructing the director of certification exams in the Chief Rabbinate to issue certificates of high religious education, to complement the for-pay ordination classes.

Rabbi Bakshi Doron did so, apparently, despite that he was critical of issuing these documents to security personnel, and even though he allegedly knew that the students sought the documents only for economic ends.

Chief Rabbinate’s Website Hacked

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Arab hackers, hacked the Chief Rabbinate’s website tonight.

Arab hackers have been attacking Israeli government and municipal websites all evening. They succeeded in changing the homepage on a few of them.

Tzohar Launches Campaign to Improve Israeli Rabbinate, Rabbinic Services

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

The Tzohar Rabbinical Organization has launched a public information campaign designed to encourage a new approach to religious leadership within the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

The campaign, which was launched Friday, includes newspaper and bus advertisements, as well as a mission statement outlining the organization’s vision for a revised Chief Rabbinate, which will be distributed to more than 200,000 people over the weekend.

Among the items that Tzohar is calling for will be to elect new rabbinical court judges who would be more open to the needs of the general public, not just the religiously observant sectors; and new guidelines for managing the marriage, divorce and conversion processes in Israel – three areas that have been particularly alienating to secular Israelis.

“The Israeli public demands a rabbinate that responds to the needs of all Israelis and not just those of specific segments within society,” Tzohar President Rabbi David Stav said in a statement. “We need to wake up and say that now is the time to make substantial changes in the structure and mandate of the rabbinate so that it becomes an agency that is relevant for each and every Jew who calls Israel home.

“As a result of the policies of the Chief Rabbinate, restaurants across the country are foregoing kosher supervision, obstacles are being placed in front of people interested in halachic conversions, and more and more Israelis are opting for a non-Jewish marriage ceremony abroad,“ Stav added. “With this growing wave of assimilation and abandonment of Jewish tradition, the result will be a de facto detachment between the State of Israel and its Jewish identity.”

The campaign was launched on the yahrtzheit of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the historic founder of the Chief Rabbinate and widely regarded as the founding father of religious Zionism.

Tzohar, which helps to involve non-religious couples and their families in religious wedding ceremonies – marrying, free of charge, about 3,000 couples a year – had been embroiled in a fight with the Chief Rabbinate over this service. Earlier this summer, the Chief Rabbinate agreed to lift restrictions on rabbis from Tzohar and permit them to conduct weddings. In return, Tzohar pledged to withdraw a lawsuit against the Rabbinate and to try to stop legislation that would have taken away the Rabbinate’s hegemony over who conducts marriages.

The national pool of Tzohar rabbis is prepared to conduct wedding ceremonies for anyone who approaches them, without financial remuneration. These rabbis have all agreed to the following principles:

1. The Tzohar rabbi will meet with the couple for a conversation and a study session of various topics related to marriage and the wedding.
2. The rabbi will arrive on time for the chupah ceremony.
3. Tzohar rabbis do not conduct more than one wedding in the same evening.
4. Tzohar rabbis do not get paid for conducting the wedding.

And should the couple, with God’s help, bring a baby boy into the world, Tzohar offers its own Mohel service. All their mohels have earned a certification from the Ministry of Health and the Chief Rabbinate; they are experienced; they all carry medical insurance; and they all take a special Tzohar course preparing them to help non-religious families feel comfortable and connected to the ceremony. They are also available throughout the healing process, and they charge according to a set, official rate. They are also committed to arriving on time.

Tzohar rabbis are available to all Israelis, religious and otherwise, with answers regarding Bar Mitzvas, Bat Mizvas (for girls), female baby celebrations, Pidyon Ha’Ben (redemption of the first born son), Chanukat Ha’Bayit (entering a new home), and, finally, burials and mourning.

The Hebrew language website of Tzohar is chock-full of content on the groups rich activities. Unfortunately, its English language page leads, from every single menu item, to a donations page.

Probably just a temporary glitch…

JTA content was used in this report.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/tzohar-launches-campaign-to-improve-israeli-rabbinate-rabbinic-services/2012/08/26/

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