Rabbinate stalls on recognizing Orthodox diaspora rabbis
More than a year has passed since the Chief Rabbinate pledged to delineate criteria for recognizing Orthodox rabbis in the diaspora, but a committee set up to tackle the matter has only ever met once; 'This is harming Israel-diaspora relations.'
Last year, Ynet learned that the courts refused to recognize Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, the modern Orthodox rabbi who converted Ivanka Trump.
Pressured into taking action on the matter by threats that the issue would be taken to the High Court of Justice (HCJ), the Israeli rabbinate pledged in December 2016 that it would discuss the issue. However, the execution of the special committee’s raison d'être appears to have been brought to a complete stagnation since.
Israel’s chief rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef announced the creation of the ad hoc committee for evaluating the matter and even declared that it would convene for the first time within a number of days.
However, more than a year has elapsed since the pledge was made and the committee has only ever met once in February 2017, a fact which has been a source of anger for the ITIM organization, which says “it helps people navigate the religious authorities’ bureaucracy in Israel.”
Moreover, much to the organization’s chagrin, the committee refuses to publish the protocols and minutes of the sole meeting.
ITIM claims that the foot dragging by the rabbinate in formulating the criteria is deliberately intended to enable it to create an unofficial “blacklist” of senior rabbis with more liberal religious propensities that they do not recognize.
One of the rabbis that has not been recognized so far by the Israeli Rabbinate is Rabbi Adam Scheier, who leads the Orthodox congregation of Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal and has ties with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The synagogue which he leads is one of the largest in North America. Rabbi Scheier expressed his deep disappointment at the Rabbinate’s conduct, accusing it of “lack of action” and “causing a rift” between the State of Israel and diaspora Jewry.
He also warned that its actions “do not contribute” to the future relations of the two sides.
“We called on the Rabbinate to act with complete transparency to improve communications and relations with diaspora Jewry,” Scheier said, adding that the the Rabbinate’s ways have led the diaspora to the conclusion that “it either doesn’t have enough strength to deal with this serious problem or it simply simply doesn’t find it urgent or interesting to deal with important problems that are related to the diaspora Jewry.”
The director of ITIM, which threatened to appeal to the HCJ, Rabbi Dr. Seth Farber also lamented the committee’s failure to take action.
“This contempt and condescension of the Rabbinate toward rabbis in the Jewish community outside Israel has been going on for a number of years and is deepening the deep rift between Jews in Israel and Jews around the world,” he argued.
“This is behavior that is contrary to the fundamental principles of the Torah, that obligates us be extra cautious not to harm converts.”
The Chief Rabbinate also issued a statement responding to the accusations, claiming that the matter was under discussion.
“After a number of meetings, discussions and advisory sessions and a discussion in the Chief Rabbinate Council, together with the members of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, to determine recognition in the courts outside Israel, the Israeli Rabbinate Council nominated a joint staff of the Chief Rabbinate Council and members of the Supreme Rabbinical Court to submit recommendations to the Chief Rabbinical Council in order to determine criteria for recognition in foreign courts,” the statement read.”
“The team held a meeting and in addition we convened an internal advisory meeting to determine the criteria, and as part of this, it even turned to the courts outside Israel to receive expert opinions. The team submitted its recommendations to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate Council that has held a number of meetings on the matter.”