Photo: Jay Bar-David
Rabbi Avi Weiss. 'I will continue to speak out until all rabbis will be formally recognized'
Photo: Jay Bar-David

Rabbinate to accept Rabbi Weiss' letters

After questioning his commitment to Jewish law, Israel's Chief Rabbinate agrees to recognize American modern Orthodox rabbi's testimonies on personal status of his congregants

The Chief Rabbinate on Wednesday announced that it would accept letters from American Rabbi Avi Weiss attesting to the personal status of his congregation members, after refusing to do so recently due to claims about his "questionable" commitment to Jewish Law.



The Rabbinate went back on its previous decision following an appeal from religious-Zionist movement Ne'emanei Torah Va'Avoda. The Rabbinate's legal advisor, attorney Harel Goldberg, informed attorney Assaf Benmelech, the movement's representative, that from now on it would recognize documents issued by Weiss.


The decision followed a negotiation meeting held last weekend, in which the parties agreed to put the affair behind them. A Rabbinate source said new information received from the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) on Rabbi Weiss contributed to the decision.


Attorney Goldberg wrote in his letter to attorney Benmelech, "After conducting a further inquiry into the matter, and after the meeting held at the Chief Rabbinate, in your presence, in regards to recognizing Rabbi Avraham Weiss' Judaism certifications, it has been agreed that these certificates are recognized by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel."


Rabbi Weiss: Injustice has been corrected

About two months ago, Ynet reported that dozens of Orthodox rabbis from the United States were accusing the Chief Rabbinate of Israel of challenging their rabbinic credentials by rejecting letters attesting to the personal status of their congregation members.


According to the rabbis, because of their liberal opinions, the State of Israel's Rabbinate was treating them as if they were Reform or Conservative. One of those offended by the Rabbinate's attitude, and the only one to express his feelings publicly, was Rabbi Avi Weiss, who heads a large community in northern New York.


Weiss had even planned to petition the High Court of Justice with the help of prominent Jewish American lawyer Alan Dershowitz.


About two weeks ago, the Rabbinate stated that due to Rabbi Weiss' "questionable" commitment to Jewish Law, it had decided not to accept letters from him attesting to the personal status of his congregation members who seek to immigrate to Israel or get married in the country, until the matter was clarified.


The decision was criticized by rabbis in Israel and around the world. The negotiations with the Rabbinate focused on Rabbi Weiss and not on the other rabbis the Rabbinate refuses to recognize, and so it is unclear whether the latest decision applies also applies to them.


Rabbi Weiss said in response that he was "thankful this injustice has been corrected and am deeply grateful for the overwhelming support I received from all over the world."


He added, "This is a first step because this was never about me personally. I will continue to speak out until all rabbis of the International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF) and the RCA will be formally recognized for this purpose. I also urge the Chief Rabbinate to reflect on how it can help us reach out, respect and acknowledge all Jews in the Diaspora."


'Recognition in way of modern Orthodoxy'

Attorney Benmelech said in response, "The Chief Rabbinate's decision should be seen as recognition of Rabbi Weiss' life's work in Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and Yeshivat Maharat, and the way of modern Orthodoxy in the United States, which is dealing with the challenges of our generation within the boundaries of Halacha."


Shmuel Shetach, CEO of Ne'emanei Torah Va'Avodah, expressed his hope that the decision "will mark a change in policy and the abolition of inappropriate working methods." He added that "this entire affair proved that the communal model is necessary as the right way to regulate state and religion authorities in Israel."


Rabbi Weiss is a graduate of Yeshiva University. Among the most influential Orthodox rabbis in America (and perhaps in the world), he is probably the most liberal.


Weiss is known as the founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah for the ordination of rabbis and Yeshivat Maharat, which is the first institution to ordain Orthodox women as clergy – a move which was one of the causes of the serious dispute between him and the central stream of modern Orthodoxy in the US.


פרסום ראשון: 01.16.14, 17:55
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