The leaders of the prominent religious Zionist rabbinic organization Torat Haaretz Hatova (Rabbis of the Torah of the Good Land – a reference to Numbers 13:19: “What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad?”) on Sunday issued a proclamation that essentially voided Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana’s plan to reform state-approved Jewish conversions.
As you may recall (Haredim Slam Religious Services Minister Kahana for Allowing Local Conversions), Minister Kahana’s conversion outline’s first part is that the existing conversion system will for the first time receive state recognition by law; the second part allows city rabbis to establish conversion tribunals within the framework of the state conversion system; and the third defines the establishment of a “city rabbis” department in the conversion division, which will provide administrative services to the city rabbis’ associations.
Torat Haaretz Hatova is a union of rabbis who “follow the teachings of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook Ztz’l and endeavor to continue the ways of his public leadership.” Rabbi Zvi HaCohen Kook, son of the trailblazing Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, was Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz Harav, a prominent spiritual leader of religious Zionism, and one of the most prominent ideologues of Greater Israel.
The rabbis of Torat Haaretz Hatova set the tone of religious Zionism and Modern Orthodoxy in Israel. They include prominent spiritual leaders such as Rabbis Haim Meir Drukman, Yaakov Ariel, Eitan Dov Izman, Elyakim Levanon, Dov Lior, David Chai Cohen, and Haim Israel Steiner.
They and several others of their rank wrote on Sunday:
“The subject of conversion has many implications for the existence and unity of the Jewish nation now and in the future. Therefore, we determine that the only authority to decide on issues of conversions as well as all the areas of the religion, halacha, and tradition – is the Chief Rabbinate.”
They added, in the spirit of Chanukah, Sunday night having marked the eighth day of the holiday, a line from Al Hanissim: “And for Your people, Israel, You performed a great deliverance and redemption unto this very day.”
גדולי רבני הציונות הדתית במסר אחיד: רק הרבנות הראשית קובעת בנושאי הגיור. מכה אנושה לכהנא pic.twitter.com/LdHZcDkhAz
— דביר עמר (@dviramar2) December 5, 2021
MK Simcha Rothman (religious Zionism) who has been on the attack against the conversion reform since it has been taken up in earnest a few weeks ago by Minister Kahana, posted a gleeful message on Facebook:
“In the letter, they clarify that conversion, kashrut, and other religious issues must be determined by the Chief Rabbinate. It’s time for Yamina to stop selling the public lokshen (lit. Yiddish for noodles, colloquial meaning nonsense). It is forbidden to deceive converts about the issues of conversion. Maybe this is too much to expect from a party that turned scamming into a business plan… Fight your petty wars against the Haredim to your hearts’ content, you want, but don’t cheat the public.”
Since Minister Kahana has been citing the support of several of the rabbis who have signed the letter that thwarts his plan, it should be interesting to see him getting back on his feet after this near-knockout.