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October 4, 2015 / 21 Tishri, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘conversion’

Bennett and Netanyahu Clash over Rollback of Religious Reforms

Sunday, July 5th, 2015


The Cabinet Sunday morning approved amendments to the conversion reform law of the last administration and returned more power to Hareidim, over the objections of coalition partner Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home).

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett to vote for the changes, alleging that they were part of the coalition agreement with the Shas and Yehadut HaTorah (United Torah Judaism) parties.

Bennett said at the Cabinet session, “I did not agree to this in coalition negotiations,” but the Prime Minister shot back:

All of the agreements obligate everyone.

Likud Parliamentary Group Chairman Ze’ev Elkin stepped into the fray and confirmed that Bennett opposed rolling back the reform, and the Cabinet passed the changes with Bennett and Bayit Yehudi Cabinet member opposing it.

Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party that is not in the coalition, also voted against it.

The amendments wreck all of the efforts in the previous government to take conversion out of the hands of Hareidi rabbis an allow local rabbinical courts to decide on the delicate issue that has the most impact on 300,000 Russian immigrants who are not Jewish according to Jewish law. Hareidi courts generally are far less willing to accept conversions than are national religious rabbis.

The Cabinet also transferred authority over the country’s rabbinical courts from the Justice Ministry to the Ministry of Religious Services, which is headed by another Shas MK, David Azoulay.

Refusal to accept reforms means that it is more likely that all of the children and future generations of the immigrants will not be Jewish. If the woman marry Jewish men, there would be even more non-Jews in Israel and would create complications that could affect their children’s future.

The need for Prime Minister Netanyahu to form a coalition forced him to accept the Shas and UTJ demands to put the conversion process back in the hands of Hareidi courts. Under the new amendments local courts still can process conversions but only with the approval of the Chief Rabbinate.

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, son of the late Rav Ovadia Yosef, is part of the Shas movement that his father founded, so it is no wonder that the Shas party insisted on eliminating reforms.

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau also opposed the reforms.

It only is a matter of time before reform once again will undo the Hareidi establishment that never misses an opportunity to forego bridging gaps with the non-Hareidi population and bring people closer to Judaism, simply because they insist on such a rigid approach to religion and concentration of power that pave the way for a backlash that could weaken Orthodox Jewish influence in Israel.

Rabbi Riskin Hopes the Rabbinate Will Climb Down From Their Tree [audio]

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

Rabbi Riskin said he hopes the Rabbinate will climb down from their tree, in an interview he gave on Galei Yisrael Radio on Tuesday, as reported by Kipa.

The extension of Rabbi Riskin’s tenure as Chief Rabbi of the town of Efrat is under evaluation by the Israeli Rabbinate because he has reached the retirement age of 75. Only, it appears that the consideration as to whether to extend the Rabbi’s term is based on Rabbi Riskin’s legal/halachic positions, which places him in direct opposition to the Chareidi/Shas controlled Rabbinate.

Rabbi Riskin said, “I don’t want to believe that because of the halachic issue of conversion, which is such an important issue in the State of Israel today, that they [the Rabbinate] would want to terminate my services in the Rabbinate, but so it appears.”

Rabbi Riskin made it clear that he respects the Rabbinate and believes it serves an important role, but he thinks “the Rabbinate should accept opinions that are important, halachic pluralism, when of course it is within the halachic consensus. I don’t do anything that is outside the halachic consensus to open the gates of conversion…”

Rabbi Riskin continued, “I support the establishment and the institution of the Rabbinate, I believe it is important, but it must be a Rabbinate that talks to all of the nation of Israel, and halachically it must be prepared to accept halachic opinions that are not exactly Ultra-Orthodox views.”

“I hope… they’ll come down from their tree. I honestly don’t understand them… if this is true.” he finished off.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin to ‘Stay On No Matter What’ Says Efrat Mayor

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

Efrat Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin is planning take his case to the Supreme Court of Israel if necessary, and Efrat Mayor Oded Ravivi says he is adamant Riskin must stay on, “regardless of what the Chief Rabbinate of Israel says.”

Ravivi warned that he would not tolerate political interference from the country’s rabbinical council officials when there is a “clear consensus that Rabbi Riskin is performing his duties faithfully.”

In an interview Tuesday with the Hebew-language “Kipa” website, Ravivi slammed the threat by the Chief Rabbinate not to extend Riskin’s term of office in his city.

“I watch this process in wonder and amazement,” Ravivi said. “Overall there is a consensus here that Rabbi Riskin is doing his job exceptionally well.

The parliament understands that the rabbi must respond to the definition of “creating for yourself a rabbinic authority” – someone to whom one can turn in time of spiritual and moral need – half of these voters who support the rabbi are city council members, 25 percent are synagogue members and 25 percent are simply those who are spiritual followers.

“Rabbi Riskin is one of the founders of this community,” the mayor continued. “Is there anyone who is a more integral part of this city? He is part of the infrastructure and the living spirit of this place.

“The Rabbinate decides not to reappoint him – so does that mean he will no longer bless celebrations here? People will no longer consult him? I would bet that the reality will not change, even if the Chief Rabbinate does decide not to extend his appointment,” the mayor said.

Meanwhile, Riskin himself has said that he will appeal the issue to the nation’s Supreme Court. In addition to serving as the Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Riskin also heads the Ohr Torah Stone institutions as well.

“I read the newspapers and hear that the matter is about conversions and the fact that I was supposed to set up a conversion court along with other town rabbis,” Riskin explains.

“I wanted to open the gates for people from the former Soviet Union who live here in Israel, born to Jewish fathers. There is an issue here that must be resolved, and that can be resolved, if conversion courts will become more embracing,yet 100 percent according to Jewish law.”

Modified Conversion Bill Goes To Cabinet Instead and Approved

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

After much political backroom dealing, a highly controversial conversion bill was enacted by a Cabinet decision, instead of becoming law through Knesset vote.

MK Elazar Stern (Hatnuah) had proposed a bill to the Knesset that would completely change how conversions were processed in Israel. Among the changes were the kind of religious court that could approve of conversions and the religious denominations of the conversion rabbis.

Haredi parties, and a large faction of Habayit Hayehudi strongly opposed the bill.

Both Chief Rabbis had already instructed the Prime Minister’s office that they would not recognize converts under the bill as Jewish. Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau had also warned that foreign religious courts may no longer recognize Israeli conversions, if the bill was passed.

In what is seen as a political move, Prime Minister Netanyahu had a revised bill brought for a Cabinet approval, avoiding a vote in the Knesset on the full extended bill. Should the Knesset bill have passed, it would have threatened the current governing coalition – coalition members Hatnuah and Yesh Atid backed the bill, while Netanyahu’s Likud party, and coalition member Habayit Hayehudi, vehemently opposed it.

The revised proposal is seen as a compromise, and will leave the coalition intact.

While a Cabinet decision allows the reform to go into effect immediately, it would also be easier to cancel in the future should a need arise.

The revisions include a requirement for the Chief Rabbi’s approval for a municipal rabbi’s conversion (missing in Stern’s bill), and no recognition for Reform and Conservative conversions (which were possible in Stern’s bill).

The basic platform of the bill, allowing municipal rabbis to convene conversion courts, remains in the Cabinet proposal.

Following the cabinet vote, in which only Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) voted against the measure, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said he wouldn’t accept the decision.

Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett said the compromise bill was balanced and in accordance with Jewish law.

The proposal seeks to make conversion an easier process – until now, all conversions had to be brought to the central Rabbanut conversion court. There have been complaints about the process, while others have raised questions about the potential validity of conversions performed by rabbis separately. The issue is a hot button topic in Israeli politics, as there are currently an estimated 330,000 Israelis who are not considered Jewish according to religious law.

Proposed Conversion Bill, Change in Local Rabbinate Power Nixed by Netanyahu

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

A bill that would allow any chief rabbi of any city to create his own religious court for conversion has finally stopped at the prime minister’s desk.

The bill would effectively neutralize the authority of the nation’s Chief Rabbinate over the conversion process in Israel.

It is one that has been fought bitterly by observant Jewish parties across the spectrum.

And now the proposed Conversion Bill advanced by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party has gotten the axe by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

According to a report Monday by Channel 2 investigative journalist Amit Segal, the prime minister announced that he supports the hareidi position regarding conversions.

Netanyahu made the statement following months of skirmishes behind the scenes and quiet wrangling by both chief rabbis and hareidi political parties as well as members of the more moderate Bayit Yehudi party.

The prime minister allegedly also told heads of coalition factions that he will make sure the bill does not pass if it comes up for a vote, even if it is privately sponsored.

Because Livni’s credibility as a party chief may ride on this issue, however, the issue may be a deal breaker for her presence in the coalition.

A Yom Kippur Apology to Gwyneth Paltrow and Reform Jews

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Dear Gwyneth,

Several readers harshly criticized me for my remarks here about your decision to convert to Judaism under the auspices of a Kabbalah-oriented rabbi.

I have nothing against Kabbalah. I have nothing against Reform Jews.

My kosher beef is against fashionable Kabbalah and the Reform Movement industry that turn Judaism into a personal fiefdom based on personal views of universalism that have nothing to do with Torah.

Kabbalah is beyond me. Its mysticism can lead one to a great understanding of God and the essence of God, through the Zohar, the 13th century book that is studied worldwide by many very Orthodox Jews but which also has been hijacked by many as a tool for skipping over the basics.

I termed the conversion process by Reform “rabbis,” and this also holds for many Kabbalists, “instant Judaism.” I also referred to it as “false Judaism,” but quickly deleted the phrase after seeing justifiably angry talkbacks.

I apologize to you and Reform Jews for using both phrases, which I stand by 100 percent but regret having published because it didn’t serve the purpose of performing the mitzvah of “kiruv” – reaching out to bring Jews closer to Judaism based on beliefs of our first Yid, Avraham.

Although you are not Jewish, at least not yet, you do have a centuries-long history of learned rabbis in your ancestry. You discovered that your great-grandfather was a learned sage.

I find it sad that that some have no qualms about teaching their Kabbalah wares to the Hollywood holies, and that the Reform Movement welcomes with open arms anyone who wants to enter the tribe without learning and understanding the religion from the viewpoint of Orthodoxy.  Judaism has survived and flourished for 3,000 years in the face of attempts to destroy our religion through the same assimilation that the Reform Movement accepts be re-defining the term “Jew.”

Our sages, like your great-grandfather, always have discouraged conversion, which is a serious business and is more than “feeling” Jewish, putting on a tallis, eating gefilte fish and delving into the secrets of Kabbalah without having learned Torah.

I had no intention of discouraging you. That is not my business.

I do have the intention of discouraging conversions that reduce the Torah to nothing more than an interesting book from which one can pick and choose what he wants.

You were raised by an assimilated father and a Christian mother, and that says a lot about what happens to Jews when they do not stick to authentic Judaism, falsely libeled as a “monopoly” of the Orthodox.

As I have written elsewhere, certified medical doctors decide who are legitimate doctors. The same is true in dozens of other professions. I don’t go to an “alternative accountant” or “alternative lawyer.”

I often follow treatments in “alternative medicine,” but I never go to someone who calls himself an ”alternative doctor.”

Gwyneth, I won’t dwell on “instant Judaism” because it will only will cause me to apologize again after another argument readers who either disagree or simple feel I should ”leave you alone” and be happy you are searching for your roots. I really am glad you are doing so, and it would be wonderful if you read some translations of your great-grandfather’s books.

I apologize to you, and readers, whom I have offended.

I wish you a happy and good year and will try to lean more towards Kiruv and less towards mockery.

One other item, Gwyneth. Assuming you convert, and through an Orthodox rabbi, don’t forget your Jewish roots go back further than your centuries of rabbis in our ancestry. Your roots, once you are Jewish, are in Israel.

RCA: We Don’t Proactively Seek to Reevaluate Past Conversions

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

The Rabbinical Council of America denied a prominent rabbi’s accusation that it is actively negating past conversions.

The Orthodox rabbinic organization issued a statement Friday responding to a JTA opinion article criticizing the group written by Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld. His article, published Thursday, accused the RCA and its Beth Din of America of “retroactively negating and rooting out converts who were for decades fully integrated into the Orthodox Jewish community.”

In their statement, the RCA’s president, Rabbi Leonard Matanky, and the Beth Din of America’s director, Rabbi Shlomo Weissmann, disputed this characterization.

“At no time have the RCA or the Beth Din proactively sought to reevaluate conversions; that is not our interest or desire,” they wrote. “However, Halachah does have its standards, and we have acted and will continue to act as a source of information to those rabbinic agencies which seek to determine if halachic standards have been upheld.”

The two officials added that the RCA’s current conversion protocols “have facilitated the acceptance of U.S. conversions throughout the world.”

Herzfeld, the rabbi of Ohev Sholom: The National Synagogue in Washington, cited the case of a woman, Karen Brunwasser, who had been converted to Judaism as an infant by a beit din, or rabbinic court, but had difficulty getting the Israeli Chief Rabbinate to recognize her conversion so she could marry. Brunwasser wrote about her experience in The Washington Jewish Week.

An RCA official, she wrote, had raised questions with the Chief Rabbinate about the Orthodox rabbis who converted her because they had served congregations that lacked a mechitza separating men and women. While the Israeli Chief Rabbinate eventually accepted her conversion, she attributed this victory to “powerful connections” who intervened on her behalf.

Herzfeld, in his JTA article, cited correspondence about Brunwasser’s case between the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and the Beth Din of America. In an email to the Chief Rabbinate, Rabbi Michoel Zylberman of the Beth Din of America wrote: “We are unable to approve the conversions done by a rabbi who serves in a synagogue without a mechitza.”

Zylberman continued: “Of course, one can argue with this position and if you want to be lenient here on the basis of other authorities you can do that which is right in your eyes.”

While not commenting on any specific case because of confidentiality policies, the RCA officials in their statement wrote that “it is only natural, as a responsible local presence of halachic authority, that we are a resource for rabbinical agencies, in Israel and worldwide.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/rca-we-dont-proactively-seek-to-reevaluate-past-conversions/2014/03/08/

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