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August 26, 2016 / 22 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Reform’

Moroccan Ghosts Hacked Reform Congregation Websites

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

When I started reading this JTA story, I was sure the offenders were some vigilante Satmars, avenging Orthodox Judaism:

“The websites of several congregations hosted by the Union for Reform Judaism were hacked and linked to anti-Semitic websites.

“Following the weekend hacking, the URJ pulled down the websites for scanning and clean-up, according to Mark Pelavin, the URJ’s senior advisor to the president.

“In an e-mail to JTA, Pelavin said the sites were set to be brought back online by Monday evening, adding that URJ made some changes to its security protocol.”

But then the writer revealed that the hackers appear to be a group calling itself Moroccan Ghosts, according to Jeffrey Salkin, the Anti-Defamation League’s New Jersey community director.

Since March, Moroccan Ghosts has hacked some 82 websites, mostly in the United States, but also in France, Britain, Vietnam, South Africa, Germany, Spain and China, the ADL said. The Facebook page of Moroccan Ghosts includes graphics reading “Free Palestine,” as well as an Israeli flag ripped in half and on fire.

A member of the group, a 17-year-old hacker from Morocco who calls himself King Neco, in an interview from over the summer with Eduard Kovacs on the Softpedia website, identified as part of the organization’s objectives “Defending Palestine and Jerusalem ‘al Qods.'”

Not meaning to sound callused about the suffering of fellow Jews, but the cure for this could be simple: the Reform congregations should contact the Moroccan Ghosts and explain to them that they, the Reform, mostly feel very similarly about defending Palestine, etc., as they do, and that their real enemy are the non-Reform Jews. Go hack those extremist right-wingers and leave us alone.

It works whenever Arab hackers attack the Haaretz site – they always call back to apologize when they realize they hit one of their own.

Yori Yanover

America Needs a New Civil Space Policy

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Other nations are not waiting for the US to decide what kind of space policy it wants.

China is moving ahead with its independent manned space program. On June 18, 2012, a Chinese Shenzhou capsule, with China’s first female Taikonaut aboard, docked with China’s new space station. This Chinese mission is most likely meant to show that China is winning a new space race with the United States.

In January 2013, whatever the new administration, it will almost certainly not consider civil space policy to be one of its top priorities – civil space being the government’s non-military space program. The most important part of that is NASA; other parts include NOAA for civilian weather satellites and the FAA office of commercial space transportation for licensing commercial space launches.

If, in the first few weeks, space questions arise at all, restoring the 22% (or more) cuts made by the current administration to America’s military space programs will take precedence over decisions on the future of NASA. The European Space Agency has, at least for the moment, given up on major new cooperative space exploration programs with NASA. Further, the confused management of the US Space Agency has discouraged most of the world’s space organizations from joining with Americans on any serious new projects.

This situation is the opposite of the goal which the Obama administration set for itself in the June 2010 National Space Policy. The White House policy makers said then that they wanted to “expand international cooperation on mutually beneficial space activities to broaden and extend the benefits of space …”

International partnerships for space exploration are certainly being developed — only without the United States.

It is hard nevertheless to imagine that the question, “What do we do about NASA?” can be long postponed: the US government’s military space and civilian space (which mostly means NASA) are two sides of the same coin. The same firms that support the military’s essential space functions also support NASA’s science and exploration programs. The stress on major civil space programs — caused by a combination of complex requirements, underfunding and poor management — means that in early 2013, several of the most important programs, including the Mars exploration project and the James Webb Space Telescope, will be in even deeper trouble than they already are.

Any new administration will at some point have to face the incredibly incompetent way in which the future of scientific research on the International Space Station (ISS) has been handled. To put it bluntly, the same woman who was in charge of writing the specifications for the body which is to supervise science on the ISS, is now a senior officer in the institution that won the contract. This involves, at the very least, what used to be called “the appearance of impropriety.” Until the new administration and NASA take dramatic action to separate themselves from this mess, investigations and litigation will probably ensure that very little science will be done on the station.

Moreover, to save money for the very costly and behind-schedule Webb Space Telescope — managed by the Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland, and the pet project of the powerful and sometimes feared Democratic Senator, Barbara Milkulski — the rest of NASA’s science programs have been gutted. This plunder has been especially true of the planetary science missions: future Mars exploration programs have been canceled, and the planned “Flagship” mission to the outer planets has been postponed to the point where it is doubtful it will fly anytime within the next decade.

The manned space exploration program is a shambles. The commercial space projects are taking baby steps at a time where giant ones are needed. One hopes that the so-called “New Space” companies will find a way to thrive in this environment, but they are, with the exception of SpaceX, nowhere near ready to fly paying passengers into orbit, and will not be ready for some years to come.

In the early morning of May 22, 2012, SpaceX, based in Hawthorn California, finally launched its Dragon ISS resupply capsule on the company’s own Falcon 9 rocket. This was only the third Falcon 9 launch and the first since December of 2010. Three days later, on May 25th, the Dragon capsule was successfully berthed onto the space station. There is nothing unusual about a complex space launch vehicle taking more time than expected to perfect. For a private firm such as SpaceX, however, it has been an expensive process that has, no doubt, hurt its bottom line, at least for the short term.

The SpaceX Dragon’s launch was carried out under the terms of the Bush-era Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. In 2007 and 2008, NASA was planning to extend the COTS contract to cover transporting people, as well as cargo, to the ISS under the so-called COTS-D program. Now, instead of the commercial program being a useful auxiliary to NASA’s main human exploration plans, COTS-D was renamed the Commercial Crew and Cargo Development program (CCDev) and, after that re-renaming, is now named the Commercial Crew Program (CCP). NASA created this program to build vehicles that would take over the entire job of carrying people and cargo from Earth to orbit and back, a task was formerly performed by the Space Shuttle.

Congress rejected that approach; at present a stalemate exists between those who support giving the entire job to the so-called “commercial” industry and those who are pushing for a compromise. The compromise which the Obama administration reluctantly accepted in 2010 was that NASA would continue to develop the Orion capsule for possible missions to the asteroids, the Moon or Mars, and that NASA would begin work on a new rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS), which closely resembled the heavy-lift Ares V, a part of the Bush era Constellation Return-to-the-Moon Program. The SLS, like the Ares V, will, in theory, be able to lift more than 120 tons of payload into the Earth’s orbit — more than any other rocket in history. The current leadership at NASA, however, has been less than enthusiastic about the SLS program and has tried to undermine it every chance they got.

So how, in January 2013, could a new President restore NASA’s place as a world leader in science, technology and exploration? Perhaps by following three relatively-simple-to-understand principles:

Number OneRespect the US Constitution

Congress is a co-equal branch of the government. As such, it may be incredibly frustrating to deal with at times; however, its role as the keeper of the national purse must be acknowledged. The Obama administration’s cancellation of the Constellation program, which aimed to return Americans to the Moon and eventually land US astronauts on Mars, was nothing short of an act of political vandalism. Constellation had been carefully crafted, with considerable input from senior Senators and Representatives from both political parties. Killing Constellation poisoned NASA’s relations with the men and women on Capitol Hill. Until there is new leadership at the space agency and also at the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, the bitterness and anger will endure.

Number Two: Set Clear Goals

People are tired of hearing about President Kennedy’s 1961 instructions to NASA to “within this decade, land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth.” The Apollo program was a product of a unique time and place. The US will never again devote more than 2% of GDP to NASA as it did in the mid 1960s. If the country were to spend even 1% of its annual wealth on NASA, it would look like a miracle.

Yet, reduced funding is no excuse for allowing the space agency to disaggregate into a unconnected set of programs which not only cannibalize each other, but which are often canceled after spending billions with nothing to show for them. A Back-to-the-Moon-and-on-to-Mars program is still the most sensible, and doable, long term goal. Humanity needs to explore and settle new worlds, and America needs to be at the forefront of those efforts.

Number Three: Reform the Way NASA Does Business

As with many other Federal agencies and departments, the waste that results from starting and then canceling programs dwarfs any other form of governmental waste. The cancellation of the Constellation program, after more than 9 billion dollars had been spent on it, was merely one example of this practice. Few foreign governments habitually start, and then kill, expensive national programs with the same reckless disregard for the national purse or the national interest as do our leaders in Washington DC.

To carry out these reforms not only does NASA desperately need to fix its management problems, such as the ones which have led to the wild cost overruns in the Webb Space Telescope program, but above all NASA needs new leaders in Washington. Any President should look soon into a top-to-bottom, radical reform and simplification of the gigantic and complex Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). America’s FAR are rivaled only in their Kafkaesque complexity and lack of rationality by America’s Tax Code.

Done correctly, such reforms would save the government hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years, not only at the Defense Department, but also at NASA. FAR reform would free up cash inside the NASA budget for research, science and exploration.

It should be noted that both of NASA’s commercial programs, COTS and the CCP, have been carried out under the “Space Act Agreement” law. This legislation has enabled the COTS and CCP contractors to build their vehicles to fill NASA crew and cargo transportation needs without having to fulfill the costly and time consuming requirements of the Federal Acquisition Regulations. This raises the question: Why doesn’t NASA ask all its contractors to work under the Space Act Agreement rules?

It needs to be clearly understood America’s civil space program is just as much an instrument of national power as the US Navy or the State Department. It is to be hoped that the President and Congress will in the future recognize this fact.

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

Shiraz Maher

An Eis La’asos – The Time is Ripe

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

I certainly have my issues with the Reform Movement. These issues are very serious and in many ways insurmountable. For an Orthodox Jew the idea that Mitzvos are optional is anathema. No matter how strongly one supports doing them – doing them is not an option as Reform Judaism sees them. They are an obligation. This is a major theological difference between us.

This very point is behind the prohibition issued by the great religious figures of the past – including the “Rav”- R’ Joseph B. Soloveitchik. We cannot be seen to in any way endorse such views by participating with them in theological matters. That is because it might be seen as some sort of Elu V’Elu endorsement of their views.

That said, I believe that Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, the former president of the Union of Reform Judaism (1996 – 2012) and I are kindred spirits. He has written an amazing op-ed in Ha’aretz that – with one or two exceptions – I could have written myself. In fact, I think any Orthodox rabbi could have written it.

If there was ever a time to engage with the Reform movement this is it. I believe we can do so in meaningful ways and still live up to the spirit of the prohibition to engage with them in theological matters.

Here is the thing. Thinkers like Rabbi Yoffie realize what Orthodoxy has realized from the very beginning: A Judaism devoid of Mitzvos is no Judaism at all. To achieve this, Rabbi Yaffie clearly looks to Orthodoxy for guidance. Based on past articles written by him, this doesn’t surprise me at all.

Rabbi Yoffie has now become the biggest advocate of Kiruv and Jewish education. Kiruv and education of his own Reform constituents! And he turns to us as the model for that. His ideas of how to preserve Judaism for the future are exactly the same as ours. From that op-ed:

Reform Jews have much to learn from the Orthodox when it comes to ritual mitzvoth…

Let’s educate, educate, educate—in ways that work. We know what works with our kids: Jewish camps and day schools, Jewish pre-schools and youth groups, and of course Israel trips. Let’s focus on the basics and avoid the trendy. The “Hebrew Charter School movement,” which teaches Hebrew language but not Judaism to Jews and non-Jews in schools that get some public funding, is the latest example of pouring millions of Jewish charitable dollars into an educational gimmick that will have zero impact on the Jewish future… Let’s move out of our cocoons and learn from Jewish approaches other than our own.

He even has some ideas about how to fund education. Ideas that I have myself suggested:

Let’s rethink our Jewish world. Our Jewish structures are tired; let’s redo them. And let’s begin with some big ideas from Abraham Foxman of the ADL. Foxman has proposed that we redirect much of the communal purse now raised here for Israel and, in partnership with Israel, send the money back to America for Jewish education. Assume we are talking of $500 million per year; that money means little to Israel but would matter a lot here. Everyone would be a winner: Imagine a joint Israeli-American Jewish campaign to strengthen Diaspora Judaism. Imagine a dramatic rise in scholarships for Jewish camps, youth groups, and day schools.

He also says that Orthodoxy could learn something from Reform Judaism in the sense of Tikun HaOlam. He may have a point. Just because ritual Mitzvos are indispensible to Judaism does not mean we ignore our Tikun HaOlam requirement. All too often we are so self centered that we forget that there are things in the world that need Tikun that do not directly affect us.

He closes with the following comment:

[L]et’s encourage rabbis of all streams to invite a rabbi from a different religious movement to lecture at their congregation and share thoughts that they will not like and may not know. Our community will be stronger for it.

This is where we may have differences of opinion. Because of the prohibition of participating with Reform rabbis on the same stage in matters theological, it would be impossible to invite a Reform rabbi to address a gathering of Orthodox Jews. While we lovingly accept every Reform Jew as full brothers, we do not accept their theology and cannot therefore even be seen as accepting it. That may seem unfair, but sometimes sticking to principles leaves us no choice.

Harry Maryles

Reform, Conservative Rabbis for Obama List Tops 600

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

More than 600 rabbis have joined a campaign initiative called Rabbis for Obama.

The rabbis represent themselves and not individual synagogues or organizations, according to the news release. The names of all the rabbis can be found on the website barackobama.com/rabbis. Most of the rabbis are Reform or Conservative, although a handful are Orthodox.

Obama for America announced Tuesday that Rabbis for Obama is designed to “engage and mobilize grassroots supporters.”

“This list of rabbis represents a broad group of respected Jewish leaders from all parts of the country. These rabbis mirror the diversity of American Jewry,” Ira Forman, the Obama campaign’s Jewish outreach director, said in a news release.

“Their ringing endorsement of President Obama speaks volumes about the president’s deep commitment to the security of the state of Israel and his dedication to a policy agenda that represents the values of the overwhelming majority of the American Jewish community,” Forman said.

The number of rabbis signing on is more than double the number who added their names to President Obama’s 2008 campaign at the launch of a similar effort then.

Rabbis Sam Gordon and Steven Bob, both of Illinois, and Burt Visotzky of New York are co-chairs for this initiative. The first two started Rabbis for Obama in 2008.

JTA

Non-Orthodox Reaction To The Siyum HaShas

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

The massive turnouts around the world celebrating the completion of the twelfth cycle of the Daf Yomi should finally put to rest any remaining claims by leaders of non-Orthodox movements that they represent the wave of the Jewish future.

Can any among them assert with a straight face that they could attract anything remotely approaching the more than ninety-thousand Jews who flocked to MetLife Stadium or even the tens of thousands of others who gathered at other venues across the U.S. and around the world?

Can they identify anything their movements urge on their members that rivals the proven lure of the timeless exposition of the Oral Law by the sages and scholars of the past two millennia?

In fact, the critique of the Siyum HaShas offered up by some of those leaders highlight just how far they’ve strayed from the Judaism of the Ages. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Uriel Heilman, this is what the senior vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism told him concerning the Reform movement’s view of the Talmud and the Siyum HaShas:

Text study is very important to us, but we focus on the Ur-text, on Torah in particular. That’s an interesting contrast between Reform and Orthodox. Talmud, Oral Law, is not our core text….We’re aggressively pushing Torah and Tanakh study; we’re not aggressive at a North American level of pushing Talmud study. Talmud study remains important, but it’s not as central, certainly doesn’t rise anywhere to the level of a daily study encouragement for us.

[It’s part of] how Reform Judaism looks at rabbinic law…. We see ourselves as successors reclaiming the core Torah text.

The rabbis of today and of yesteryear are of equal authority. The amoraim [rabbinic sages quoted in the Talmud] do not get special consideration. Contemporary commentary is equally as interesting and holy, if you will….

We’re creating new sacred texts. Only time determines what Jews will value for the long term…We’re not assigning Divine weight [to Talmudic rulings]. They don’t carry more weight than contemporary Jewish philosophy…. Oral Law we do not find to be binding.

It is clear that in the Reform mindset there is nothing special about any of the Tanaim and Amoraim of the Talmud who expounded on the Torah, or later commentators like Rashi, Tosafos, and the Rambam. Indeed, as the Reform spokesman made clear, their “contemporary” sages are the equal of the aforementioned giants and quite capable, thank you, of creating “sacred texts.”

The chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, which trains clergy, educators and professional and lay leaders for the Conservative movement, made a similar point in an article on the Siyum HaShas in the Wall Street Journal. While he freely acknowledged that studying the Talmud has been key to the growth of Orthodoxy, he went on to ask,

But what about the rest of the Jewish population? How can they be offered a sense of community and meaning? What learning could galvanize non-Orthodox minds, stir our hearts, nourish our souls?…I propose a different page for Jewish learning, one that is open to the larger world and bears the impact of modern thinking. It would cleave faithfully to texts, rituals, history and faith while being informed by art, music, drama, poetry, politics and law.

Imagine if every Jew who wished to do so could awake to a platform of daily Jewish text not limited to the Talmud – and to Jewish media not limited to text. Daily reading of Torah or psalms would be juxtaposed with their echoes in the headlines of the day; a passage from Job would be accompanied by clips from the Coen brothers’ film “A Serious Man”; the poetry of Isaiah could be explored side by side with that of the late Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai.

So he doesn’t get it either. Contemporary philosophers – even highly regarded filmmakers – don’t bring the same things to the Jewish table as a Rabbi Tarphon or a Rabbi Akiva, a Rashi or a Chofetz Chaim, a Rav Moshe Feinstein or a Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv. The Daf Hayomi siyumim made it clear that the traditional study of classic Jewish texts is fundamental to the survival of the Jewish people and that those seeking to deny the authoritativeness of those texts are in denial about what is plainly before their eyes. And that may well be the enduring contribution of the Siyum HaShas.

Editorial Board

Rev. Samuel Myer Isaacs: Champion of Orthodoxy (Part I)

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are from “The Forerunners – Dutch Jewry in the North America Diaspora” by Robert P. Swierenga, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 1994.

The nineteenth century witnessed a decline in religious observance by most of American Jewry. Changes were instituted in Orthodox synagogues that led many of them to affiliate with the Reform movement. Many religious leaders went along with – and some even encouraged – these changes. There were, however, some men who did their best to maintain traditional Judaism in the face of what at the time seemed an unstoppable tide of change. One such man was the Rev. Samuel Isaacs.

“Isaacs was born on January 4, 1804, in Leeuwarden – the capital city of the province of Friesland in the far northern Netherlands – the son of a prominent merchant-banker, Meyer Samuel Isaacs (Isaks) and Rebecca Samuels, his wife. This devout family had five sons and four became ministers. The Leeuwarden synagogue seated six hundred and was one of the largest congregations outside the main Jewish centers in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague.”

The Napoleonic Wars adversely affected Dutch Jews engaged in trade with London and Meyer Isaacs found himself increasingly in debt starting in 1805. Things were so bad by 1814 that the Isaacs family relocated to London. There, Meyer, who was a well-educated layman in both secular and Torah subjects, became a teacher. In addition, he made sure educated that his sons received excellent religious and secular educations.

Samuel, who was only ten when his family moved to England, was young enough to learn to speak English without a Dutch accent. “This ability later earned him many speaking engagements in America, where sermons and public addresses in English were much preferred to the customary Yiddish or German tongue.”

“After completing his education Samuel taught Hebrew for a time at the Jewish Orphanage of London and then in the 1830s he became principal of a Jewish day school.” In 1839 he married Jane Symmons. At about the same time he was offered the position chazzan at Ashkenazi Congregation Bnai Jeshurun of New York. The result was that Samuel and his new bride sailed for New York a few days after their wedding. The trip took three months.

“The arrival of an English Jewish preacher was indeed a novelty in those days, for in 1839 preaching in the vernacular was a rarity. The Elm Street synagogue near Walker Street [where Congregation Bnai Jeshurun was located] was crowded every Sabbath to hear the new preacher, and not a few non-Israelites were attracted.”[i]

The synagogue thrived under Isaacs’s leadership despite the fact that on a number of occasions groups left the synagogue to form their own minyanim where davening was conducted in accordance with the minhagim of the region where the mispallelim came from. In 1844 a major schism developed. Rather than fight, Chazzan Isaacs, the shamus and at least ten other Dutch families chose to withdraw quietly and form a new congregation which they named Shaaray Tefila.

This new congregation, which was formally organized in 1845, consisted primarily of English and Dutch Jews. Reverend Isaacs served as it spiritual leader until his passing in 1878.

“Isaacs’s long tenure at Shaaray Tefila marked the high point of Orthodoxy in New York Judaism…. Isaacs devoted his pulpit to the defense of pure religion undefiled, calling the faithful to observe the full Mosaic law, the Levitical dietary rules and purification rites, and especially to keep the Sabbath. Honoring the Sabbath was difficult for Jewish retail merchants and clerks because Saturday was the major American shopping day, and state and local Sunday closing laws often kept Jewish businesses closed on that day as well – until they won legal exemptions.

“Reverend Isaacs’s second theme was to uphold Orthodoxy against the new Reform Judaism that German Jews were bringing to America in the 1840s. Among other worship practices, Reform introduced mixed choirs and instrumental music, integrated seating, prayers in English, abolition of head coverings, and confirmation for young women as well as young men. Reform congregations also were lax in enforcing religious discipline and Sabbath-keeping.

“Isaacs challenged these new ideas ‘from the fertile fields of Germany, where everything grows fast, although not always wholesome.’ What is at issue, he warned, is that Jews are ‘assimilating our system to that of Christianity ….’ ”

Dr. Yitzchok Levine

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Facing Heated Calls For Change On Several Fronts

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

WASHINGTON – The latest battle over religious pluralism in Israel has unleashed a new barrage of criticism and calls for reform aimed at the Orthodox-controlled Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

Unlike major flare-ups in past decades, however, this time it’s not just the Reform and Conservative movements leading the charge – mainstream, consensus-oriented Jewish groups with no denominational affiliations are speaking out, too.

One flashpoint has been the fallout from the Israeli attorney general’s decision to approve government funding for Reform and Conservative religious leaders as “rabbis of non-Orthodox communities” – albeit through the Ministry of Culture and Sports rather than the Orthodox-controlled Religious Services Ministry, which funds Orthodox rabbis.

That announcement drew a caustic response from Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who in a June 27 meeting urged more than 100 fellow Orthodox rabbis – including Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger – to pray “in order to stop the destroyers and saboteurs of Judaism [because] they are trying to uproot the foundation of Judaism.”

“There is a natural backlash on the part of American Jews and American Jewish leaders when the Chief Rabbinate issues such statements,” said Steven Bayme, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Koppelman Institute on American Jewish-Israeli Relations. “As we enter the 21st century, the [Chief Rabbinate] needs to be reevaluted in terms of democratic norms and modern Israel’s relationship to world Jewry.”

In response to Rabbi Amar’s remarks, about 50 Reform and Conservative rabbis protested outside of the Chief Rabbinate’s building in Jerusalem. Two Conservative rabbis filed a police complaint accusing Amar of incitement – a particularly serious claim in Israel ever since the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The Jewish Federations of North America, which has leaders from across the religious spectrum, but which in recent years has become more vocal on behalf of Israel’s non-Orthodox Jews, was quick to respond.

“It is a fundamental Jewish virtue to ‘love your fellow as yourself.’ We condemn comments that disparage fellow Jews and, in particular, well-established branches of Judaism that represent 80 percent of North American Jewry,” Jerry Silverman, the president and CEO of JFNA, said in a statement. “Statements such as those made by Rabbi Amar only serve to alienate our fellow Jews from our religion, our people and the Jewish state.”

Shortly after that controversy, the board of governors of the AJC – another nonsectarian Jewish organization with no formal ties to either the Reform or Conservative movements – went even further in criticizing the Chief Rabbinate and calling for major changes to the institution.

“In the 21st century, a coercive Chief Rabbinate has become, at best, an anachronism, and at worst a force dividing the Jewish people,” the AJC’s leaders declared in a resolution.

The Chief Rabbinate’s actions “threaten to divide the Jewish people and risk an anti-religious backlash against Judaism itself within the Jewish state,” they wrote. The AJC urged Israel’s government “to undertake promptly all needed actions” to end the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over issues of personal status.

The latest wave of criticism comes amid a backdrop of religion-related controversies – tensions between Modern Orthodox rabbis and haredi Orthodox rabbis over conversions; the push for civil marriage in Israel; and the struggle over whether haredi men should serve in the military or continue to be exempt to study in yeshivas.

“Like any human institution, the Chief Rabbinate could use improvement,” said Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive director emeritus of the Orthodox Union.

“What those improvements would be though requires a lot of thought and a lot of study, and from the OU’s perspective in no way could the Orthodox nature and the halachic nature of the Chief Rabbinate be compromised.”

Rabbi Weinreb stressed that OU congregations and rabbis adhere to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s decisions. He added that the process of electing chief rabbis could be refined so that it is “less political.”

The call for radical reform of the Chief Rabbinate was greeted warmly by Reform and Conservative groups.

“It’s a powerful letter from the dead center of the American Jewish establishment weighing in on what the Israeli government and the Israeli public still thinks is a fringe issue,” Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said of the AJC’s position. “It’s a welcome voice in that debate.”

Neil Rubin

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/religious-secular-in-israel-israel/israels-chief-rabbinate-facing-heated-calls-for-change-on-several-fronts/2012/07/11/

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