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September 16, 2014 / 21 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Israeli Chief Rabbinate’

Engel Goes to Bat for Rabbi Avi Weiss in Letter to Netanyahu

Monday, January 13th, 2014

The New York congressman who represents Rabbi Avi Weiss expressed his concerns to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Chief Rabbinate’s decision to reject Jewish status letters written by the rabbi.

Rep. Eliot Engel, the senior Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in a letter to Netanyahu dated Jan. 10, “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 not only lives in Engel’s congressional district, but the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale that Weiss led for nearly 40 years and the Yeshivat Chovevei Torah rabbinical school he founded also are located there.

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

A letter vouching for a couple’s Jewishness and that each of the couple is single or divorced according to Jewish law, has been required for decades from couples 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 left for Israel Sunday as part of Vice President Joe Biden’s delegation to the funeral for former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Rabbi Stav: Get ‘Corrupt Politicians’ Out of the Rabbinate

Friday, June 28th, 2013

National religious Rabbi David Stav has based his campaign to become Israel’s next Ashkenazi chief rabbi on a message of inclusion, friendliness and tolerance. But in an exclusive interview with JTA, he had harsh words for those who have attacked him in recent weeks.

The attacks began two Saturday nights ago, when Rabbi Ovadia Yosef used his weekly speech to call Stav “evil.” Rabbi Yosef, Israel’s chief Sephardi spiritual and legal authority, said that Rabbi Stav, who has painted himself as a reformer,  is “dangerous to Judaism, dangerous to the rabbinate and dangerous to Torah.”

One day later, some Haredi Orthodox youth took the rabbi’s words to heart and literally pushed Rabbi Stav around as he danced at a wedding.

And then last Thursday, the man whom Stav hopes to replace, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, was questioned for fraud and money laundering and placed under house arrest for five days, preventing him from being in communication with other suspects and from leaving the country.

No indictments have been charged, but in Israel, public figures, especially those who are right wing or religious, are considered guilty until proven innocent.

Rabbi Stav wouldn’t comment directly on Metzger’s arrest, but said earlier in the interview that Israel “needs a rabbinate not ruled by corrupt politicians but by God-fearing people. The people of Israel want a Judaism that speaks not in threats and curses but in a pleasant language and ways of peace.”

He insisted that he only wants to make the rabbinate more user-friendly, not to change Jewish law. He’s against instituting civil marriage in Israel and won’t recognize non-Orthodox conversions. But the Haredi orthodox leadership in Israel doesn’t seem to believe him.

Rabbi Stav told JTA that if elected, he wants to strengthen the chief rabbinate’s relationships with Jewish communities outside Israel. One of his goals would be to push for a unified international standard of kashrut.

“The Israeli rabbinate is not just the top institution in the Jewish state but is also a formal authority for Jewish people worldwide,” he said. “We want a permanent dialogue with the different organizations and rabbinates in the United States and different places in the world.”

End of an Era: Ethiopian Aliyah to Stop Next Month

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

The Jewish Agency is preparing to end mass aliyah from Ethiopia with two final flights consisting of 400 immigrants on Aug. 28.

The Jewish Agency emissary to Ethiopia, Asher Seyum, made the announcement in a brief letter, saying the Jewish Agency will hand over its aid compounds in the Ethiopian city of Gondar to local authorities at the end of August.

For years the compounds – originally established by the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry and only recently taken over by the Jewish Agency – provided thousands of Ethiopians waiting to immigrate to Israel with educational, nutritional and some employment services.

Once the final flights are complete, Ethiopians wishing to immigrate to Israel will be subject to the same rules as potential immigrants from elsewhere in the world and considered on a case-by-case basis, a New York-based spokesman for the Jewish Agency told JTA.

A steady trickle of approximately 200 Ethiopian immigrants per month has been coming to Israel since 2010, when the government decided to check the aliyah eligibility of an additional 8,000 or so Ethiopians.

The petitioners are known as Falash Mura, Ethiopians who claim links to descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity generations ago but who now seek to return to Judaism and immigrate to Israel. They have been accepted to Israel under different rules than those governing other immigrants.

The Israeli government has declared an official end to mass Ethiopian immigration several times. Each time, however, aliyah from Ethiopia resumed after pressure by advocates.

In August 2008, for example, the Israeli government declared mass Ethiopian immigration over only to reverse course several months later and agree to check the aliyah eligibility of 3,000 additional Ethiopians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in May 2009 that those would be the last Ethiopians to be checked en masse, but that decision was reversed in 2010, opening the door for this latest group of immigrants.

Under his implementation of the government’s 2010 decision, Seyum said, more than 6,500 Ethiopians have immigrated to Israel.

The first mass immigration wave of Ethiopian Jews took place in Operation Moses in late 1984 and early 1985, when Israel brought 6,500 Ethiopians Jews to the country.

After rebels in Ethiopia took over the capital city Addis Abba in 1991 and threatened the stability of the entire country, Israel and private groups carried out the secret Operation Solomon mission that brought more than 14,000 Ethiopians to Israel on 34 El Al flights.

The operation continued into the Sabbath, with the permission of the Chief Rabbinate based on the Jewish law that “pikuach nefesh,” saving a life, takes precedence over the laws of the Sabbath that had to be suspended for the maneuvers.

Update: Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger under House Arrest

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Police have released Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger on condition of “house arrest” for five says, during which time he is forbidden from leaving the country or making contact with anyone under investigation on charges of bribery and money laundering.

Police questioned Rabbi Metzger for 10 hours before releasing him close to midnight Thursday night.

He vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

Police have taken into custody Rabbi Metzger’s aide, Chaim Eizenstein, for eight days. Also being held for six and seven days respectively are officials of two non-profit organizations,  Beit HaTavshil director Simcha Karkovsky  and Ben Zion Tzioni, head of the Tzedaka V’Mishpat.

Israeli fraud squad officers raided Rabbi Metzger’s home and office Thursday morning following an undercover probe the past several months.  Police received authorization from Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and State Prosecutor Moshe Lador to carry out the raid and arrests.

Police confiscated computers and documents and opened bank accounts.

The Chief Rabbi allegedly pocketed hundreds of  thousands of shekels, and possibly more, that were intended for non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Also questioned and eventually arrested were one of the rabbi’s aides and two NGO officials.

Other arrests are expected.

The probe is the latest in a lengthening list of investigations of Israeli public figures, including former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was acquitted on two major charges and found guilty on one count, and suspended Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

The suspicions against Rabbi Metzger are grave, and if indictments are filed, the case would be a bombshell for an Israeli public that is increasingly distrustful of the police, politicians and judges.

Nevertheless, the  timing of the indictment against Lieberman and the questioning of Lieberman is interesting. Accusations and investigations against Lieberman dragged on for more than 10 years before an indictment was filed late last year, coincidentally around the time new elections were scheduled.

Rabbi Metzger, from the Haredi community, is being questioned days before the election of new chief rabbis. The two leading candidates for the Ashkenazi post are Haredi Rabbi David Lau and national religious Rabbi David Stav.

Rav Ovadia Calls Tzohar Rav Stav ‘Evil’; Tzohar Replies: Repent

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Revered Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a spiritual head of the Shas party and a former Chief Rabbi, castigated Chief Rabbinate candidate Rabbi David Stav in unprecedented terms Saturday night, calling him “evil” and a “danger to Judaism.”

The Tzohar rabbinical group responded by calling on Rav Ovadia, who by all accounts is one of the most brilliant Torah sages today, to “repent” and “ask for forgiveness.”

The epithets  by Rav Ovadia may boomerang and give Rabbi Stav sympathy support that could make him Israel’s next Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi.

They also give anti-religious Jews, both inside Israel and in the Diaspora, plenty of ammunition to fire back in their campaign against leaving authority for Israel’s religious affairs in the hands of orthodox Jews, Haredi or not. One can hear the refrain already, “And you call these people spiritual leaders?”

Rabbi Benny Lau, a national religious rabbi and the nephew of former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, told Voice of Israel public radio that despite Rabbi Ovadia’s constant antagonistic comments in  his weekly Saturday night sermons, he once realized the greatness of the man when he spoke  with him in person.

But Saturday night’ wild attack on Rabbi Stav left Rabbi Lau without any explanation for his behavior.

Rav Ovadia’s weekly speeches are often geared for his Sephardi audience, many of whom see themselves as having been discriminated against for decades under the domineering thumb of Ashkenazi rabbis for years.

Even taking that into account, Rabbi Lau’s inability to explain Rabbi Ovadia’s venom points in one direction: Aryeh Deri, the Rav’s favorite political leader and who rules the Shas political party.

Deri has been trying to torpedo a bill that would allow Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar to seek a second term. The reasoning is that since he is Haredi, his selection would create more pressure to accept a non-Haredi Ashkenazi rabbi.

Deri, a crackerjack if not ruthless politician, simply had to turn to his trusted rabbi, Rav Ovadia, to help make sure Rabbi Amar will not be selected and thereby prevent the election of Rabbi Stav.

It is open to question how much Deri and other aides close to Rav Ovadia have sheltered him from reality and have fed him the news they want him to read.

Regardless of who is to blame, when a  rabbi, especially one as distinguished as Rav Ovadia, states that appointing another rabbi to the Chief Rabbinate is like bringing idolatry in the Holy Temple, it only takes a look at the calendar to realize how deep and slimy the pit into which the campaign for Chief Rabbi has fallen.

Next week, Jews being the tradition “three weeks of mourning” that concludes with Tisha B’Av, marking the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

The Second Temple is said to have fallen because of “loshon haRa,” literally the “evil tongue” by which Jews slander other Jews.

The Tzohar rabbinical organization accused Rav Ovadia of doing just that and accused Rav Ovadia of incitement.

When respected rabbis feel the need to call on a rabbi as revered as Rav Ovadia to “repent,” it is clear something is not kosher.

Rabbi Stav has conducted an unprecedented self-promotional campaign to become Chief Rabbi, but it can easily be argued there is no other way to change the outward face inward soul of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel that has managed to distance secular Jews instead of drawing them closer to Judaism.

In a pitiful understatement, aides to Rabbi Amar have charged that political elements are sowing the seeds of hatred between Torah sages.

The group of Tzohar Rabbis protested what they called the incitement of Rabbi Yosef against “another great rabbi in Israel whose entire life has been dedicated to love of the Torah by the People of Israel.. [His comments] prove the need for an urgent change in the Rabbinate of Israel.”

Shas officials insisted on the last word, which gets worse every time they speak. They  said it is “not respectful to respond to words of a heretic by people who call themselves rabbis but are worse than non-Jews.”

One Shas source, compared Rabbi Stav with Korach, who challenged  Moses’ authority and whose followers died when the ground opened up and buried them alive. ” When Rav Ovadia says he [Rabbi Stav]is evil, there is no need to explain,” said the source. Now , it is clear that all of them [Tzohar rabbis] are evil.”

Jewish Home MK Orbach Supports Rabbi Stav for Chief Rabbinate

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Jewish Home Minister Uri Orbach announced Monday night on his Facebook page that he supports Rabbi David Stav, who is part of the Tzohar organization, as Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel. Some other Jewish Home Knesset Members have backed Rabbi Yaakov Ariel for the position, but his candidacy is in doubt because of his age.

The Tzohar organization focuses on bringing non-religious Jews closer to tradition. Rabbi Stav’s open approach “is what the overwhelming majority of the public, including many rabbis who give their quiet support, and most of our voters want from us,” Orbach wrote.

“Rabbi Stav is a great and learned national religious rabbi committed to the People and State of Israel,” he added.

Israeli Rabbinate Backs Berlin Rabbi for Oral Suction at Brit

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has sent a letter of support to Berlin Chabad Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, who was charged by an anti-circumcision activist for practicing the ritual of oral suction of a small amount of blood at a circumcision.

The practice is widely accepted in Israel but caused controversy in the New York area after several reports of herpes. At least two boys died and two others suffered brain damage in the 11 cases of herpes reported by New York City health officials after the practice was carried out at circumsions in the years 2004-2011.

Last September, the board of health voted 9-0 to require mohels to obtain signed consent forms from parents before performing the rite.

Rabbi Moshe Morsiano, director of the division for circumcisions in the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, emphasized in his letter that that the ritual of oral suction should not be carried out when the mohel is ill or has a sore in his mouth.

Rabbi Morsiano listed a number of opinions written by rabbis of the past several generations, all whom concluded that the ritual, known in Hebrew as Metzitza B’Pe, is integral part of ritual circumcision.

The Rabbinical Center of Europe, which represents m ore than 700 rabbis, also has supported Rabbi Teichtal.

The controversy in Germany is particularly important because of last year’s ruling by a judge in a German province that circumcision is illegal. German Chancellor Angela Merkel stepped in and backed legislation to make sure that religious circumcision remained legal.

“The Jews of Europe must have religious freedom,
said the Rabbinical Center. “All Jewish leaders have the responsibility and obligation to stop any interference with any detail of Jewish practice”.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israeli-rabbinate-backs-berlin-rabbi-for-oral-suction-at-brit/2013/04/24/

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