interesting if you like this sort of thing

Israeli list of unrecognized Pindosi rabbis points to rift
Ilan Ben Zion, AP, Jul 9 2017

JAYLOOMIA — Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has compiled a list of overseas rabbis whose authority they refused to recognize when it comes to certifying the Jewishness of someone who wants to get married in Israel. The list includes a number of prominent Orthodox rabbis in North America. Among them are a New York social activist who has advocated for greater rights for women, a Canadian rabbi who is friendly with PM Trudeau, and a colleague of the rabbi who converted Ivanka Trump. The rabbinate would not say why it had rejected the overseas rabbis’ credentials or provide the criteria for securing their recognition. But it insisted its decision would not prevent them from re-applying in the future. The list, which includes 160 rabbis from 24 countries, threatened to deepen a rift between overseas Jewish communities and Israeli religious authorities. One of Israel’s chief rabbis, David Lau, reacted angrily to the publication of the list, saying it had been compiled by a low-ranking bureaucrat without his knowledge. A top aide to Lau wrote in a letter to the rabbinate’s director general:

How can it happen that a list is publicized without notifying the rabbi, not about the list or about its publication? It cannot be that a clerk decides which rabbis are authorized! (This will cause) severe ramifications and harm to certain rabbis, and mainly to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel!

The letter said Lau would deal with the issue with “utmost severity” and expected an explanation this week. In order to marry in Israel, Jews born overseas must provide evidence of their Jewishness to the rabbinate, often through a letter from a rabbi in their country of origin. The Chief Rabbinate takes a strict line. For instance, it does not recognize the validity of Reform or Conservative Judaism, which is practiced by the vast majority of North American Jews. But the new list included some prominent Orthodox rabbis as well. Rabbi Avi Weiss, an Orthodox rabbi based in Riverdale, New York, who advocates a “more open and inclusive Orthodoxy,” said he was unaware of the list and could think of no reason why he was placed on it. Weiss said;

The whole thing seems to be nonsensical on every level.

He said its existence was “tragic” because it would “alienate” fellow Jews. Another member of the list, Rabbi Adam Scheier, who leads an Orthodox congregation in Montreal and has ties with Trudeau,said:

(This is) an affront to the hard work and devotion of so many of my colleagues, of all denominations. (It’s) one of the many cases in which the Chief Rabbinate has carried out its function without transparency or process.

Rabbi Daniel Kraus of Kehilath Jeshurun, a major Orthodox synagogue in Manhattan, also is on the list. Kraus serves with Haskel Lookstein, the rabbi who converted Ivanka Trump. Lookstein’s name was not on the list, and while his conversions have been questioned by the rabbinate in the past, they are now accepted. Also rejected were rabbis teaching at Yeshiva University, the flagship university for the Modern Orthodox movement, a Lubavitcher rabbi at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and prominent Modern Orthodox rabbis pushing for greater openness in Judaism. The list was released following a legal challenge by ITIM, the Jewish Life Advocacy Center, an organization that helps Israelis deal with the rabbinate’s bureaucracy. Under court pressure, the rabbinate agreed to release the names of rabbis whose certification letters were rejected last year. ITIM’s founder, Rabbi Seth Farber, said:

The rejections amount to a blacklist. The rabbis who had their letters rejected are essentially being told, ‘You aren’t rabbis. That is the blacklist term. The rabbinate has no explicit criteria. There’s little rhyme or reason.”These are peoples’ lives at stake.

In a statement, the rabbinate did not use the term blacklist and said letters filed by the rabbis were rejected for “various reasons.” It said new marriage applications are examined on a case-by-case basis without reference to previous rejections. The statement gave no details on what criteria had been used to reject a rabbi’s letter testifying to the Jewishness of marriage applicants. It also did not spell out the criteria for approving or rejecting the Jewishness of an applicant. Rabbi Itamar Tubul, the official responsible for determining the validity of rabbinical letters testifying to marriage applicants’ Jewishness, did not respond to requests for comment.

Prominent Orthodox Rabbis From Pindostan Among Those on Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s Blacklist
Judy Maltz, Haaretz, Jul 9 2017

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has published a blacklist of 160 rabbis from around the world, including many Orthodox rabbis, whose rulings on the question of “who is a Jew?” it does not recognize. Among the prominent names in the new blacklist are Rabbi Avi Weiss, an Open Orthodox rabbi and the founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York, and Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, the co-founder and executive director of Nefesh b’Nefesh, the organization that handles all immigration to Israel from North America. Hours after it was published, Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau expressed shock and outrage that such a list had been published without his knowledge or authorization. Lau’s chief assistant wrote on Sunday in a letter addressed to the director-general of the Chief Rabbinate’s office:

This was done without the consent or approval of the rabbi. How can it be that such a list is published without updating the rabbi that it exists and that it is to be made public?

The list was prepared by the official in the Chief Rabbinate’s office responsible for determining whether individuals born abroad, registering to marry in the country, qualify as Jewish according to religious law. The letter said:

Firstly, it is inconceivable that an official in the Chief Rabbinate’s office will decide on his own initiative which rabbis are approved and which aren’t. Secondly, it goes with saying that this has terrible implications and causes grave damage to certain rabbis, and especially to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

In order to marry in Israel, individuals born outside the country must provide the Chief Rabbinate, which is controlled by the ultra-Orthodox establishment, with letters from their hometown rabbis certifying that they are Jewish. The blacklist, obtained by ITIM, an organization that assists immigrants challenged by Israel’s religious bureaucracy, includes all those rabbis whose letters of certification have been rejected over the past year. The Chief Rabbinate has sole jurisdiction over marriage between Jews in Israel and will only marry individuals whom it has determined are Jewish according to religious law, or halakha. To qualify as Jewish according to halakha, these individuals must either have been born to a Jewish mother or have been converted by an Orthodox rabbi recognized by the Chief Rabbinate. The Chief Rabbinate does not recognize the conversions of all Orthodox rabbis, but those rabbis whose conversions are not recognized appear on a separate blacklist. The list also includes the following names:

  • Rabbi Josef Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis;
  • Rabbi Adam Scheier of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal, one of the largest congregations in North America. He is known for his close ties to Canadian PM Trudeau;
  • Rabbi Joseph Radinsky (since deceased), of Houston’s United Orthodox Synagogues;
  • Rabbi Barry Dollinger of Congregation Beth Sholom in Providence, Rhode Island;
  • Rabbi Baruch Goodman, director of the Chabad house at Rutgers University;
  • Rabbi Daniel Kraus, the director of community education at Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan. The rabbi of this congregation, Haskel Lookstein, converted Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, before she married Jared Kushner;
  • Rabbi Eli Kogan, director of the Jewish-Russian Learning Center in Staten Island;
  • Rabbi Joshua Blass of Kehillas Beis Yehudah in Rockland County, New York.

The list also includes the names of 28 rabbis from Argentina, five from Britain, three from Australia and one from South Africa. Members of Reform and Conservative congregations in the Diaspora applying to marry in Israel must find an Orthodox rabbi to vouch for them, since the Chief Rabbinate does not accept letters of certification from non-Orthodox rabbis. Still, the blacklist includes many names of Conservative and Reform rabbis. Rabbi Seth Farber, the founder and executive director of ITIM, said:

I have already approached several of the rabbis on the list and offered to represent them in a petition to the Chief Rabbinate demanding that it make public its list of criteria for recognizing rabbis from abroad. And if it doesn’t we will go to court. The fact that such a blacklist exists creates a stain on Zionism, on Judaism and on the future of the Jewish people.

A spox for the Chief Rabbinate said in response:

The names on the list were those of rabbis whose letters had been rejected for marriage registration purposes. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the Chief Rabbinate will reach the same conclusion when it comes to other documents issued by these rabbis. The list was provided to ITIM after they submitted an FoIA request for it. It does not constitute a working document whatsoever.

4 Comments

  1. Posted July 11, 2017 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    http://jewishjournal.com/opinion/221459/theres-no-blacklist-rabbis/

  2. niqnaq
    Posted July 11, 2017 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Quite so, but in the most typical Jewish fashion, all you are doing is tweaking the definitions of the words involved – “pilpul”.

  3. David Benkof
    Posted July 13, 2017 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    No, it’s not a word game. My poijnt is not that it’s a “list” not a “blacklist.” It isn’t really a list at all, just a retrospective collection of names. In other words, Santa has a pre-existing list, he’s checking it twice, and he shows up at homes, using the list to remind him which children are naughty and get lumps of coal, and which are nice and get presents. It would be parallel to this situation of Santa showed up to each house, decided what to do with each child, and someone collected the historical data. Doesn’t matter what you call it, it’s not a semantic issue. It’s like the second kind of Santa, not the first.

  4. niqnaq
    Posted July 13, 2017 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Hmmm. I can see you have thought about it. For my part, I am totally baffled. I would have to go back and start again with it, whatever it is.

    Oh, I remember now. What you are saying is that the list doesn’t reflect any policy at all, just impulsive one-off judgments. OK. Such is the orthodox bureaucracy, no doubt. Random.

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