Rabbi Stav lashes out at Reform Jews
Chairman of modern Orthodox organization Tzohar accuses US Reform Judaism leaders of 'bringing mixed marriages in through the back door. You want me to recognize Chelsea Clinton's child as a Jew?' URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs responds, 'State of Israel alienates Jews'
"You're bringing mixed marriage in through the back door?" he told representatives of North American Jewish communities visiting Israel, including President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Rabbi Richard (Rick) Jacobs.
Stav, who was considered the moderate candidate in the recent Chief Rabbinate race, harshly and directly criticized assimilators in the United States and the Jewish organizations supporting them – and did not forget to mention Bill and Hillary Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, who is married to a Jew.
"The assimilation problem in the US is not just the problem of American Jews," he said. "It's also our problem. There is a slew of ceremonies, and there is a slew of people who want to conduct ceremonies.
"Chelsea Clinton married a Jewish guy. I'm not arguing about your legitimacy to think what you think. But you want me to recognize Chelsea Clinton's child as a Jew?" he asked. "You want me to recognize the rabbi who married her as a rabbi?"
'We have a responsibility for the Jewish people'
Rabbi Stav's remarks were made during a meeting of the Knesset Lobby for US-Israel Relations headed by Knesset Member Nachman Shai (Labor).
The meeting was attended by Israeli lawmakers; representatives of the Jewish Federations of North America, led by CEO Gerrald (Jerry) Silverman; Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation which initiated the lobby; and URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs.
Rabbi Stav, who has been harshly criticized recently by Israel's conservative Orthodox streams following the Tzohar marriage registration bill, found himself as the most conservative representative at the meeting, saying that "the law in the State of Israel requires us to guarantee the continuity of the Israeli society, and I must maintain the existing framework. The Torah is paying the heaviest price for the marriage and divorce law."
According to Stav, "The reason the Torah and its rabbis are hated is this coercion. People don't know the loving world of Torah, because the majority of the public knows Torah through the 'registrar.'
"We are willing to pay this heavy price," he added, "because of our responsibility for the Jewish people and our desire to preserve its wholeness and unity, although in the short run it's causing hostility towards Torah and its scholars."
Rabbi Jacobs: We're not equal in Jewish state
The goal of the Knesset meeting was to mark an era of cooperation and tighter relations with the different streams of Judaism in the US.
Stav's attack followed the findings of a survey commissioned by the Ruderman Family Foundation among Israeli citizens on issues of religion. According to the survey, conducted by the Teleseker company, 68% of Israel's Jews are concerned about the dramatic increase in mixed marriages in the United States.
The rise in mixed marriages was documented recently in a comprehensive study conducted by the Pew Research Center, which revealed that more than half of US Jews (58%) have a non-Jewish spouse.
Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, noted that "the Israeli society and Jewish-American community live in two different realities, and the US Jewry has a strategic role in guaranteeing the future of the State of Israel. Our foundation helped establish the Knesset Lobby for US-Israel Relations in a bid to encourage a deeper and more sophisticated dialogue between the two communities."
Rabbi Rick Jacobs said during the meeting that "the members, donors, and leaders of AIPAC and Federations are Reform and Conservative Jews. With Senator Lieberman’s retirement, every Jewish member of the Senate and House is a Reform or Conservative Jew.
"Listen to the commitment that we uphold daily: Unconditional support for the State of Israel, abiding solidarity with the citizens of Israel, unbending resolve in the battle against Israel’s enemies, and unshakeable determination in the face of all those who wish Israel ill."
According to Jacobs, the Reform and Conservatives are leaders who are involved in all parts of American society, and only Israel remains "the only democracy in the world that legally discriminates against the streams of Judaism representing the majority of Jews in the world and the overwhelming number of Jews in the US."
He argued that the State of Israel "alienates Jews and puzzles many Americans, eroding Israel’s image as a home to democracy and religious freedom… We are not equal here in the Jewish people’s homeland. We believe that there is more than one authentic way to be Jewish."
'Rabbinate thinking of Jewish race purity'
MK Nachman Shai, who heads the lobby, said in response to the remarks made by Rabbis Stav and Jacobs that "even when they disagree with each other, the two streams have a common denominator: The concern and protection of the Jewish world. This is the way to act in a world which is shrinking and facing tough challenges."
MK Merav Michaeli (Labor), who was present at the meeting, said that "the problem with the Orthodox Rabbinate in Israel is that it thinks in terms of the purity of the Jewish race. That wasn't the intention of Halacha, and it's a very bad way to preserve the Jewish people today.
"The Orthodox Rabbinate is in a rearguard battle over its power to determine who is a Jew at the expense of Israel's citizens and at the expense of our relations with the US Jewry. The Knesset's job is to separate religion from the State so that each and every person can be Jewish in their own way," Michaeli added.