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October 25, 2016 / 23 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘chief’

The Chief Rabbinate’s Folly

Monday, September 26th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s blogsite, Emes Ve-Emunah}

Israel needs a Chief Rabbinate. If we are going to have a Jewish country, it has to be Jewish in more than name only – or even as a culture. It has to based on the very thing that makes the Jewish people a distinct nation, the Torah. Without which we are not a distinct people at all. It is the Torah that separates us from the rest of the world and gives us the right to exist as an independent nation in the land of Israel. As I often  heard Rav Ahron Soloveichik say, ‘Without the Torah, the Arabs would be right’. We have no more right to that land than the Arabs.

But there is a Torah that gave us the land of Israel.We therefore have every right to be there – as a Jewish State. And defining that is key. Without a body that can interpret what does and does not make us  Jewish, we may as well just give up the title ‘Jewish State’.

So when the issue of conversion to Judaism came up, I supported the idea of a central governing authority that would assure that all conversions to Judaism are legitimate. To an Orthodox Jew there is no other legitimate expression of Judaism than Orthodoxy. Which is defined as full acceptance of fundamental principles of our faith and uncompromising fealty to Halacha as interpreted by the most learned rabbis of each generation.

In furtherance of that goal the Chief Rabbinate has strengthened its control over what is and is not an acceptable conversion and has fought all non Orthodox movements attempts to have their conversions recognized. They have further coordinated their efforts with the North American rabbis in both the right wing and Centrist camp. The latter of which is represented by the RCA.

The RCA for its part tightened up its own conversions by certifying which of their conversion courts’ converts would be considered legitimate. This needed to be done. I am personally aware of wholesale conversions in the past by certain Orthodox members of the American rabbinate that by most standards were sham conversions – done to satisfy parents who could not face the fact that their child was marrying out. This move has for the most part ended that practice.

Unfortunately the Chief Rabbinate has apparently not been the honest broker that these steps should have made them. There has been more than one instance where legitimate Orthodox converts have been rejected by them. In some cases there was some back-pedaling where those that had been rejected had later been deemed legitimate after all.

But that problem has not been solved. I don’t know what it is, but I suspect that there is a lot of incompetence in the rabbinate. Because in my view the unthinkable happened. If the story in Ha’aretz as reported in the Forward is true, one of America’s most Torah knowledgeable and ethical elder rabbis has been dishonored. Not just any rabbi, but the sitting head of the RCA Beis Din, Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz:

The haredi Orthodox-dominated rabbinate rejected the conversions approved by Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, according to documents obtained by Haaretz… Itamar Tubul, who heads the rabbinate’s conversion department, rejected three conversions approved by Schwartz. He accepted a fourth, but it was turned down by the rabbinate. Ultimately, the four converts in question were not recognized as Jewish by the Chief Rabbinate, according to Haaretz. All of the converts had approval letters signed by Schwartz, according to Itim, an organization that helps Israelis navigate religious bureaucracy.

I could not agree more with the reaction of the RCA:

Rabbi Shalom Bau, president of the RCA, said, “We have already begun an investigation into this latest disgrace and we demand a thorough report of how this could happen.”

To call this a disgrace is an understatement. In my view this casts the entire current  enterprise of the Chief Rabbinate into question. They either have no clue what they are doing, or have let power go to their heads. Or both. I have been defending them albeit with some reservation because I believed they were acting in the best interests of the Jewish people. Even when they made some mistakes – which they clearly did. Some of which were corrected. Mistakes happen and as long as there is a good faith effort to correct them, I stood behind them. But this goes too far.

I hate to admit it, but all of the critics of the Rabbinate as currently constructed and empowered seem to have been right all along! If this is not corrected… if their decision is not reversed with a public apology to Rav Schwartz, they have lost all legitimacy in my eyes.

That said, I am still a strong believer in the need for a Chief Rabbinate for the reasons I mentioned above. But not this one.  They are an embarrassment to the Jewish people! If they don’t change their ways, I call upon them to disband and be replaced by a new Chief Rabbinate – or at the very least I call for the resignation of those in leadership positions responsible for this kind of behavior to be replaced by rabbis that have a lot more integrity than they appear to have.

Harry Maryles

Former Chief Rabbi of France Joseph Sitruk Dead at 72

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

Rabbi Joseph Haim Sitruk, who served as Chief Rabbi of France from June 1987 to June 22, 2008, passed away at age 72. Born in Tunis, Sitruk graduated with an ordination from Seminaire Rabbinique of France in 1970, and was appointed Rabbi of Strasbourg. In 1975, Joseph Sitruk became Chief Rabbi of Marseille. He was later given the post of assistant to the Chief Rabbi of France, Rabbi Max Warchawski, and in 1987 was elected to the post of Chief Rabbi as successor to Sephardi Chief Rabbi René Sirat. Sitruk was only the second Sephardi chief rabbi of France. He was elected to serve three 7-year terms altogether, until in 2008 he lost his bid for a fourth term to Rabbi Gilles Bernheim, who had previously run against him in 1994 and failed.

In 2001 Rabbi Sitruk suffered a stroke and after his recovery took the additional name Haim, following the traditional Jewish protection against illness by altering or changing one’s name.

Rabbi Sitruk left a wife and nine children.

Stéphanie Le Bars wrote in Le Monde back in 2008 that despite his being Orthodox, which means he did not hold religious and a moral authority over all Jews in France, his charisma earned him a certain reverence, especially among Sephardi Jews.

David Israel

Former Deputy Chief of Staff: Every Day Sgt. Azaria Is on Trial Damages the IDF

Monday, September 19th, 2016

Former Deputy Chief of Staff Gen (Res.) Uzi Dayan, who at one point was head of the IDF Central Command and is a nephew of the late Moshe Dayan, told a military court in Jaffa on Monday it should not have been involved in the case of shooting medic Sgt. Elor Azaria in the first place.

“I don’t know if the soldier sinned or not,” Gen. Dayan, a witness for the defense, stressed. “I’m concerned about the soldiers on the ground. Every such [court trial] day is causing more damage to the IDF.” He then turned to the judges and said, “It’s still not too late to reach a plea bargain, the damage to the Army is enormous.”

Gen. Dayan testified that, in his opinion, “every terrorist has a death sentence on his head, regardless of whether or not they pose a risk at the moment.”

The man who commanded the Hebron region at one point and served as National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, said there should not have been a military police investigation of the case, nor a consequent involvement of the military prosecution, and certainly no trial. He also told the court that in his entire career he never permitted the military police to investigate an operational event.

“The military police does not have the tools needed to investigate operational events,” Gen. Dayan told the panel of three military judges. “It’s a shame that instead of using the tool of an investigating committee, they rolled it straight to the criminal arena. If a warrior makes a mistake, we don’t roll it over to the criminal realm, unless an insidious motive is involved.”

When the prosecutor asked if the rules of engagement don’t forbid killing a terrorist simply because he is a terrorist, Gen. Dayan responded, “This is patently wrong. What’s relevant are the mission instructions. I ordered to kill terrorists simply because they were terrorists, regardless of whether they endangered or didn’t endanger. … Terrorists must be killed. Is it under any condition? No, that’s true. But as to the question of whether terrorists should be killed, the answer is yes.”

At the end of his testimony, Gen. Dayan told the judges, “Many eyes are trained on you. The issue is under an unprecedented public debate, which means that your decision bears an enormous significance.”

Gen. (Res.) Dan Biton, who also testified for the defense, warned the court in a written affidavit that “there was a command failure on the part of the brigade commander, battalion commander and company commander.” He added, “In my opinion the company commander was in a trauma as a result of the shooting. This case represents a fault line. A wrong decision would lead to a situation whereby every soldier would be afraid to open fire to save a life.”


.@UNRWA’s Chief Offers a Litany of Lies and Slander to Keep Agency Afloat

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s Elder of Ziyon website}

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl held an “extraordinary session” of the UNRWA Advisory Board in order to beg for more funds.

His justifications for asking for more and more money to give an agency that perpetuates, rather than solves, statelessness, are almost rudely self-serving and still relies on blaming Israel rather than the true culprits: itself and the Arab leaders.

Here is a key part of the speech:

Time and time again, I am confronted with the question of why the world should care about the fate of Palestine refugees when there are so many more pressing issues to deal with. Well, it should care:

Because the conditions facing the 5.3 million refugees are now worse than at any time since 1948.

Because of Syria. And yet the UN inefficiently divides up Syrian refugees into “Palestinian” and “everyone else,” doubling up on resources and applying them unequally and inefficiently. If UNRWA wanted to save money it would give its Syria budget to UNHCR and allow them to support all Syrian refugees instead of the 95% or so it does. For UNRWA to demand funds for refugees from Syria simply because their ancestors happen to have lived in British Mandate Palestine for a time is hardly a smart use of worldwide refugee funding.

Because the absence of political horizon is draining them of their resolve and creativity.

Yet if you look at the UNRWA webpage you see lots of articles about how wonderful their school students are, how creative and happy they are.

Because fifty years of occupation and ten years of blockade in Palestine are etched into the soul and identity of the Refugee community.

Of course, it wouldn’t be UNRWA if there was no swipe at Israel. However, the people under “occupation” and “blockade” are not refugees – they live in the boundaries of the British Mandate, under the rule of their own leaders, whose decisions are what led to their being in the situation they are in.

But maybe even more importantly:

Because a young generation of Palestine refugees is growing up which is losing faith in politics and diplomacy. In the West Bank and Gaza, most young people were born after the Oslo Peace Agreement. They were told by the world that if you choose a path of moderation, there will be justice served. But it was not.

Was the enthusiastic outbreak of a murderous spree of suicide bombings immediately after Arafat spurned Clinton’s peace plan an example of this path of moderation that they are now so disappointed over it not succeeding? How about the happy cries of victory after 9/11 in the streets of these youth? The people who overwhelmingly showed support for Bin Laden, and who voted for Hamas terrorists to lead them? Because that is what happened, not this fantasy of disillusioned youth attempting “a path of moderation.”

Because in Syria, Palestine refugees, displaced, dispossessed and desperate, now understand in their hearts what their parents and grand-parents went through in 1948 and 1967.

This is perhaps the most offensive part of all. To compare what is happening to civilians in Syria today with what happened in 1948 or 1967 is a sick revisionist history. It is to accuse Israel of genocide, of dropping barrel bombs and poison gas. This one statement shows the depths of UNRWA’s immorality, because if its leader says this statement to his donors in English, the lies and hate taught by its teachers to generations of students must be orders of magnitude worse. It might be the “narrative”  but it is slander, and  UNRWA is in no small part a reason that the false narrative against Israel and historic fact has been so popular.

Krähenbühl should be forced to resign based on this one disgusting lie by itself.

Elder of Ziyon

Former Chief Pathologist: Hebron Terrorist Was Already Dead When Azaria Shot Him

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Prof. Yehuda Hiss, who was fired from his job as head of the national Forensic Institute by then Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman (UTJ), submitted his opinion for the defense Wednesday in the military trial of shooting medic Sgt. Elor Azaria, suggesting “the bullet that hit the terrorist’s head was most likely postmortem.”

Azaria was indicted by the IDF Prosecution for manslaughter for shooting a stabbing terrorist who had already been neutralized and was lying on the ground.

Prof. Hiss’ opinion was written based on the autopsy performed by medical examiner Dr. Hadas Gips, who testified before the same military court in June that the terrorist’s initial wounds, before Azaria shot him in the head, “were not immediately life threatening especially with medical care.” She told the court that “if the terrorist had been given medical treatment, he could have possibly been saved.”

But Israel’s Channel 1 TV News reported Wednesday night that Prof. Hiss’ opinion is that “based on the results of the autopsy and considering the conclusions from the opinion of Prof. Dov Shimon, it is reasonable to assume that the death of the deceased was caused by an acute respiratory failure, combined with an air embolism to the heart and brain, following the damage to the right lung by two bullets. The damage from the bullet that hit the head was, most likely, posthumous.”

Dr. Gips told the court that had the terrorist received treatment even as late as half an hour after the event, he could be saved. She said that what appeared like an air embolism — was not.

The contradiction between the two expert opinions could result in changing the indictment, but not necessarily in an acquittal. The defense may also have to modify its version of events, since to date their claim has been that Azaria saw the terrorist moving before shooting him — although this discrepancy could be explained away with an argument of reflex motion, either by the man on the ground, or by the shooter.

Prof. Hiss is not a well liked figure in Israel, and was fired from his prestigious job at the helm of the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute for mishandling thousands of body parts, some times for pay. According to Ha’aretz, Hiss continued to work for the Justice Ministry and collect his paycheck, which, back in 2015, ranked among the highest for civil servants in Israel.


Knesset Passes Law Assigning Running State Mikvahs to Chief Rabbinate

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Following a lengthy debate and numerous objections, on Monday night the Knesset plenum passed the amended Jewish Religious Services Bill by a 41 to 35 majority. The amended law, proposed by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) and endorsed by several MKs, will require that state-run mikvahs-ritual baths be subject solely to the directives of the Chief Rabbinate. The law will take effect within nine months of its passage in order to allow preparation for the new amendment.

The explanation attached to the bill reads, “Since the inception of the State of Israel, the mikvahs have been used for halakhic traditions and customs, and for this purpose they were allotted public funding for construction and maintenance. In the wake of petitions by entities wishing to destroy the accepted foundations of Judaism that have been in existence for thousands of years, the High Court has ruled that various sects should be permitted to use the mikvahs to their various ends.”

MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) said that “this is the first time that a mikvah, which is a place of purity, has become a place of exclusion. We view this as discrimination under primary legislation.”

“Others who are hurt by this are, of course, our Jewish brothers and sisters in the Diaspora,” Lavie continued. “Once again they receive the ‘heartwarming’ message that the State of Israel doesn’t count them in. Not at the Western Wall, or in marriages, or in conversions, and now at the mikvahs, too — you have no place in the State of Israel.”

“This law is neither Jewish, nor legal, nor democratic,” Lavie added.

Meretz Chair MK Zehava Galon said the law is part of a “battle over the face and character of Israeli society.” Turning to the ultra-Orthodox MKs, Galon said, “You feel threatened? Why? Because someone is trying to undermine your monopoly over the Rabbinate, over Orthodoxy, over a pluralistic and equal life here?”

MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Camp) said, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated so many times that every Jew, wherever he may be, should consider Israel his national home. So what do they do in order that a Jew feel at home in Israel? They do not allow him to wed in a civil marriage; they do not allow him to be buried next to his loved ones if he is defined as someone who is not worthy of burial in a Jewish cemetery; they do not allow him to convert in an appropriate and respectful manner; and then they pass the Mikvah Law which deals a devastating blow to all those who underwent a Reform or Conservative conversion, which is about 20 percent of all converts.”

MK Yehuda Glick (Likud), who is an Orthodox rabbi, also expressed his objection to the legislation. “MK Gafni, why does it bother you that a Reform woman immerses in a mikvah?” Glick asked the bill’s author. “She does not stop you from immersing. Why do we need this divisiveness? You said the Jewish Agency will build mikvahs (for the non-Orthodox), but a representative of the Agency told me they do not plan to build any,” he said. Glick held a 30-second moment of silence in the plenum in protest of the legislation.

MK Gafni argued back, saying his law is not discriminatory. “All the claims made here that this constitutes a ‘selection’ are baseless,” he said, adding, “There was a violation of the status quo by the High Court of Justice; we asked that the status quo not be violated. Reform Jews in the US don’t have a single mikvah. All of a sudden they need a mikvah over here? This law aims to prevent the Reform from getting this legitimization through the back door.”

Jewish Agency of Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky has released a statement in response to the passage of the bill, saying, “This bill, which offers no solution to the non-Orthodox denominations, circumvents the rulings of the High Court of Justice. It is unfortunate that the bill passed before such a solution was ensured.”


Liberman Reads Riot Act to Army Radio Chief Despite AG’s Objections

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

New Israeli defense minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) has spent his first month in office directing the military apparatus in substantially different directions, most notably his order for the generals to come up with a concrete plan to remove the Hamas government in Gaza — it turned out they hadn’t thought it would be useful to have one. And as the defense ministry and the army are starting to sound and act in a different manner than they did under Liberman’s predecessor, Moshe Ya’alon (Likud), the new defense boss is mending the more ideological aspects of the military system. He has added his support to the chief of staff Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot’s call to shut down the left-leaning Army Radio station, and on Thursday he became directly involved in the same station’s programming.

To be precise, earlier this week the Army Radio station devoted a program to the poetic works of Mahmoud Darwish (1941 – 2008), a member of the Israeli Communist party who is widely perceived as a “Palestinian symbol” and served as an artistic spokesman for Arab opposition to Israel. In 1988, one of his poems, “Those Who Pass Between Fleeting Words,” was cited in the Knesset by Yitzhak Shamir (Likud) for demanding that the Jews leave Israel:

“O those who pass between fleeting words / As bitter dust, go where you wish, but / Do not pass between us like flying insects / For we have work to do in our land,” Darwish called on Israel’s Jews, and concluded: “So leave our country / Our land, our sea / Our wheat, our salt, our wounds / Everything, and leave / The memories of memory / O those who pass between fleeting words!”

Following the broadcast on Army Radio, which included Darwish’s texts in its “Broadcast University” series on “Israeli founding texts,” Defense Minister Liberman summoned Army Radio commander Yaron Dekel to a disciplinary hearing Thursday at noon.

“On its face it appears to be a serious issue, whereby someone who wrote anti-Zionist texts that are still fueling acts of terrorism against the State of Israel merits to be included along with his texts by the military station in the foundation texts of Israeli society, together with Jerusalem of Gold and The Silver Tray (two popular and very beautiful song by Naomi Shemer and Natan Alterman respectively),” Liberman said. “Obviously this constitutes an [ideological] eclipse which cannot be ignored.”

On Wednesday night Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit phoned Liberman to inform him that he does not have the authority to intervene in the Army Station’s programming. Mandelblit based his warning on a 2015 opinion by Vice Counsel on Legislation Affairs Dina Zilber, that ruled against ministers intervening in the military station.

And now Liberman decided to ignore Zilber’s opinion, which is almost unheard of in Israeli governmental politics. In many ways this might prove to be Liberman’s bravest act so far, and he may live to pay for it as an irate judicial civil service could rise up against him.

Already the president of the Press Council, retired Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, told Israel Radio that the intervention by the Minister of Defense in Army Radio broadcasting was dangerous, and said that it frightened her. “I cannot believe this is happening,” she told left-leaning hot Aryeh Golan Thursday morning. Yes, the red wagons are being circled.

David Israel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/liberman-reads-riot-act-to-army-radio-chief-despite-ags-objections/2016/07/21/

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