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May 28, 2016 / 20 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Rabbinate’

Rabbi Riskin Delivers Harsh Criticism of Chief Rabbinate

Monday, July 6th, 2015

(EFRAT- July 6, 2015) The Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin made his first public statements following a month-long ordeal where Israel’s Chief Rabbinate held up the extension of his rabbinic tenure.

Speaking at a reception of Efrat residents hosted by Mayor Oded Ravivi to mark the continued tenure, Rabbi Riskin stated that he was forced to “rely on reports in the media” regarding his standing, and that the Rabbinate never attempted to reach out to him directly to explain the reason for the unprecedented delay in extending his tenure. (Editor’s note: JewishPress.com was the first to report on the tenure extension crisis in English.)

The ordeal began when the Chief Rabbinate decided not to automatically renew Rabbi Riskin’s post and instead chose to delay their decision as they examined the merit of extending his thirty-two year tenure as Efrat’s religious leader.

“The Rabbis didn’t speak with me at all,” said Rabbi Riskin. “From the moment they chose not to automatically extend my tenure, I didn’t receive any indication from any of the members of the Chief Rabbinate whether they intended to renew my position. Even the rumors that I was to be invited for some sort of hearing turned out to be false,” Rabbi Riskin continued.

Responding to claims that some of his Halachic rulings were deemed problematic by a few members of the Rabbinate, Rabi Riskin stated, “I am sure all of my decisions are based on accepted Halachic precedent. Even the rulings that some viewed as too far ‘outside the box’ are based on decisions by former Chief Rabbis. This is a debate about differing ideological paths.”

Rabbi Riskin also spoke about the Kashrut issue that has been publicly debated in recent days. The Rabbi reminded his audience that it is in the interest of the Rabbinate that Kosher food be readily available to as many Jews as possible.

“The Chief Rabbinate must ensure that Kosher food is accessible to all the Jews in Israel, and that it is done so at the lowest possible cost to the general public. It should be their highest priority that as many Jews as possible eat Kosher. This is not what is happening right now with the latest decisions. The Rabbinate should be opening its arms in acceptance and limiting divisiveness in Israeli society,” Rabbi Riskin concluded.

In his comments, Rabbi Riskin urged the Chief Rabbinate to dedicate itself to a more inclusive outlook on Israeli society and return to the vision for the institution set out by the original Chief Rabbi Kook which was intended to respond to the needs of all the Jewish citizens of Israel.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Statement from the Office of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin

Monday, June 29th, 2015

(Jerusalem) Rabbi Riskin is pleased and honored to continue to serve the residents of Efrat, and the extended community, as the City Rabbi as he has done his entire life with an unwavering commitment to Halacha and the laws of the State of Israel.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Rabbi Riskin on Tension with the Chief Rabbinate, and Rabbi Feuer on the Priestly Blessing

Friday, May 29th, 2015

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi and co-founder of the Judean settlement of Efrat, rubs Israel’s Chief Rabbinate the wrong way. His liberal stance on conversion, women’s involvement in religious rites and other issues is now causing the rabbinate to threaten not to renew his contract, as he has turned 75. A slew of rabbis and public officials have come out in support of his continued tenure. Riskin joins Yishai to discuss his relations with the Chief Rabbinate and his positions on Jewish law.

Then, in this week’s Torah portion in the Book of Numbers, “Naso,” God gives direction to the Jewish priests on how to bless the Jewish people: “May God light His face unto you.” But does God really have a face? In preparation for Shabbat, Rabbi Mike Feuer joins Yishai to discuss the Priestly blessing, the Nazarite and the seemingly repetitive offerings of the tribe leaders.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Moshe Herman

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.

Tzvi Zucker / Tazpit News Agency

Torah & Norman Solomon

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Having just celebrated Simchat Torah, the festival of the Torah, the question of its source and authority remains at the very center of our current religious debate. But it’s a minefield, quicksand that can consume and even destroy the best of minds. In all the years I have worked in the rabbinate I have come across many devoted, hardworking men, but very few of them have been innovative thinkers of any note. Whatever gifts they may have had as speakers or writers, they have almost all avoided tackling fundamental theological issues. Some out of fear for their jobs, others out of fear of their peers, and of course others simply had neither the inclination nor the training to question and challenge core beliefs. It may be that the demands of the rabbinate are so overwhelming that they afford insufficient time. The fact is that almost all the intellectually creative rabbis I have come across throughout the Jewish world have left the full time rabbinate, mainly for academia.

Indeed it is in academia nowadays that all the creative Orthodox Jewish thinking is taking place. One can now find Charedi academics working in Israeli universities on what hitherto were always regarded as heretical approaches to Torah. Synagogues and communities, on the other hand, are centers of conformity and socialization. They do of course fulfill a very important need. Most people come to synagogues precisely to reinforce their social identity and needs and not to be forced into the painful process of grappling with ideas of faith.

I have just read Norman Solomon’s Torah from Heaven: The Reconstruction of Faith. It is an important book for anyone grappling with traditional Judaism. And it calls to mind the great Louis Jacobs controversy that rocked and soured Anglo-Jewry for so long.

Louis Jacobs was a product of traditional Yeshivot and Kollels, a Jew who adhered strictly to halacha throughout his life, a gifted teacher, a caring pastoral rabbi and, his biggest fault if you could call it a fault, a painfully honest man. He was a man of such impeccable stature and religious integrity that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe called him to give testimony at a court hearing in New York over the Rebbe’s library. In a small work, We Have Reason to Believe, he brought traditional sources to show how the idea that all of the Torah was given to Moses on Sinai, was a complex idea, with textual, historical, and philosophical problems that needed to be addressed, and indeed could be, in modern philosophical terms. He was a senior lecturer at Jews College, a pulpit rabbi and a candidate to succeed Israel Brodie as Chief Rabbi.

But appointing Chief Rabbis has always been a fraught, Machiavellian political process, as recent maneuverings perfectly illustrate. Louis Jacobs was blocked by an unholy alliance of envious, narrow-minded, and politically ambitious rabbis whose background was both anti-intellectual and fundamentalist. They needed an excuse to hound him out of contention for leadership of Anglo-Jewry, and they succeeded. The result was that he was treated immorally by the religious leadership of Anglo-Jewry to his dying day, even being denied an aliyah at his own grandson’s Bar Mitzvah under a much lauded Chief Rabbi who ought to have known better. One can think of no better example of the moral bankruptcy of Anglo-Jewish Orthodoxy. I myself was banned at one stage from contributing to an establishment publication called Leylah because I had written a sympathetic article about him.

Norman Solomon was a distinguished rabbi in the Anglo-Jewish Orthodox United Synagogue with whom I have had intermittent contact over the years and whom I admire and respect. We share a Cardiff connection, as well as Cambridge and philosophy. Intellectually rigorous, sensitive, and modest, he served major communities with distinction before retiring to academia. First he helped establish the Centre for the Study of Judaism and Jewish-Christian Relations at the Selly Oak Colleges, which put him in the forefront of interfaith activity, and then he became fellow in Modern Jewish Thought at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and a member of Wolfson College. Now, in the late stages of his career, he has tackled in public the very same issue that Louis Jacobs tried to deal with fifty years ago, but in greater depth and width.

It is a sad reflection on the current state of intellectual dishonesty and censorship in the Orthodox world that fundamentalism rules in the rabbinate. Only in academia can we find men like Marc Shapiro and Menachem Kellner, to name the best known, who are willing, from a position of committed Orthodoxy, to stand up and refuse to be deterred from examining honestly received ideas and showing how they are not simplistic clichés of belief but important, complex concepts that need more than superficial assent. Torah from Heaven stands with Marc Shapiro’s The Limits of Orthodox Theology as a seminal work that delves into the richness of our heritage to show that there is more than one way of looking at core religious ideas.

Catholicism reacted to the challenge of science in the nineteenth century by retreating behind the walls of certainty and dogma, insisting on papal infallibility. Orthodox Judaism has now adopted this mode. But I believe the easy access that modern technology and the internet gives us to the variety of texts and opinions that have existed in Judaism over thousands of years is taking the seals off the archives. The light shed will inevitably open minds and produce new approaches. The current battle over conscription in Israel gives the impression that the Charedi world in its entirety is set against secular education. But in reality, the interesting fact is that more and more Charedim are getting PhDs in Judaica nowadays, which means that new ideas are simmering within the fortress of Orthodoxy.

Orthodoxy lives by practice rather than theology. I get really offended when zealots try to suggest that unless you believe a specific formulation of whatever, then you are “beyond the pale”. The Torah does not use the formulation, “You must believe,” which is a very Greek idea. Instead it posits certain fundamental assertions and leaves it up to us as to how we understand them. If God did not insist on a rigidly defined credo, why should we? If we want to retain critical, thinking, and open minds, we must offer intellectual rigor, not just religiously correct slogans. This book gives us a history of the issues and how different thinkers over the centuries have dealt with the challenges of the Torah. It is a major contribution. Thank you, Norman.

Jeremy Rosen

Israel Hotels Attracting Tourists with OU Kosher Certification

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Israeli restaurants and hotels are more interested n seeking kosher certification from the American-based Orthodox Union (OU) in order to attract foreign tourists, according to the Kosher Today newsletter.

It said that many American Jewish tourists generally are more familiar with the OU than Israeli rabbinic certifications.

The OU operates in Israel in an office near downtown Jerusalem and has several kosher supervisors.

Not all restaurants are willing to accept OU supervision. Kosher Today noted that the La Cuisine restaurant decided to forfeit its OU certification for Passover rather than agree to its requirements for proper cleaning of the facility before the holiday.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Netanyahu Approves Egalitarian Section at Western Wall

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Women finally have the official nod to pray with a tallis, read from a Torah scroll and do more or less as they wish in a new “egalitarian” section to be enlarged at the southern end of the Western Wall, Haaretz reported Monday.

The newspaper said that Prime Minister Netanyahu told Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, who formulated the proposal, to draw up a timetable for establishing an egalitarian section at the Western Wall, popularly known by the Hebrew term “Kotel.” Sharansky is to meet with Office of the Prime Minister director Tzvi Hauser and with National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror, who is orthodox, to move the proposal off the drawing boards.

The decision ostensibly undermines the authority of the orthodox Rabbinate at the Western Wall, where there is a men’s and women’s section but no permission for women to pray in a non-traditional way.

However, the “victory” of the “Women of the Wall”, led primarily by American immigrants belonging to the Reform movement, is not necessarily the opening shot to challenge orthodox Judaism as the authority in Israel.

Indeed, it may be the last shot as well as the first.

The Prime Minister reportedly was encouraged by the massive support from American Jews for the women’s demands at the Western Wall, the most popular religious site for Jews visiting Israel.

The sight of policemen arresting women for the crime of disturbing public order by wearing a tallis or trying to carry a Torah scroll to the Western Wall was too much for American Jews, offended by the apparent affront to the pluralistic understanding of “equality.”

Buoyed by massive coverage in the American media, led by The New York Times, the Diaspora shouted from the rooftops, although not from the women’s sections of synagogues. The shouting was no match for the austere face of the orthodox Rabbinate, which often does everything it can to distance Jews who don’t do as they say.

The Haaretz report that the adoption of the plan “would wrest exclusive control of prayer at the wall from the Orthodox” may be wishful thinking for the newspaper, known for its bitter opposition to anything that smacks of religious authority if it is by orthodox Jewry.

If the women think that the Sharansky plan sets the stage for the Reform movement to challenge the orthodox rabbinate, they may have to say a lot of prayers to fulfill their wishes.

As much as the American Jewish committee thinks it influences what happens in Israel, one important factor in Netanyahu’s decision is that most of the Israeli public could care less one way or the other about the issue.

Most Israelis are not orthodox but most also are steeped in tradition and Middle East culture. They consider many American customs a bit odd, if not weird. Westernization is fine at the malls, and if women want to pray like men, fine.

The right of women to wear a tallis and read from a Torah scroll in their own egalitarian space does not mean that Israelis won’t stay quiet if the Reform movement wages a war on the entire orthodox establishment.

As secular as Israelis appear to be to Americans, scantily or oddly-dressed women often are seen in Israel reciting Psalms while traveling on buses or waiting at the bus stop.

Secular Israelis have a common cause with non-Orthodox Americans on the issues of civil marriages and divorces, but they will not necessarily be in a hurry to support a direct challenge to the orthodox rabbinate, which is a crucial part of modern Israeli culture.

The fact is that the Women of the Wall’s “victory” confines them to a special area, away from the popular Western Wall area. True equality, in their view, would be able to pray exactly where everyone else prays.

In effect, they may have lost the war by winning the battle.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/netanyahu-approves-egalitarian-section-at-western-wall/2013/04/22/

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