ADL: Rabbinate Decision 'At Expense of Jewish Unity'
The Anti-Defamation League Tuesday expressed "concern and disappointment" at the Chief Rabbinate's decision to disqualify several American Rabbis from eligibility to determine a Jew's status.
The ADL placed special emphasis on Weiss's case, after he was reportedly stripped of his eligibility to license marriages by the Chief Rabbinate without a hearing.
"There have been tensions between American Jews and Israel on the issue of attitude towards the current Conservative and Reform rabbis and their Rabbis," stated ADL National Chair Barry Curtis-Lusher, and global chairman Abraham Foxman.
"Instead of looking for ways to relieve the tension, this action against Rabbi Weiss (which is apparently directed to other respected Orthodox rabbis), the Chief Rabbinate only serves to deepen the controversy." The ADL further declared that the decision comes "at the expense of the unity of the Jewish people."
In a letter to both Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi, Rabbi David Lau and Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, ADL leaders wrote that the decision against Rabbi Weiss and against ten other religious leaders "sends the worst imaginable message concerning religion itself."
In their letter, the leaders called on the Chief Rabbinate to reverse the decision, in a bid to "truly begin the process that aims to unite the Jewish people and not divide and split it."
Jews are required to confirm their Judaism through a local rabbi before being able to legally marry in Israel. However, not all rabbis make the Chief Rabbinate's cut for reliability - and the criteria for a qualified rabbi has remained unclear, the group claimed.
The ambiguity has led to problems with new married immigrants, who sometimes find that while they think they are halakhically married (i.e. according to halakha, Jewish law) abroad, the Chief Rabbinate has prevented them from marrying in Israel.
Last month, the Chief Rabbinate expressed doubts about the status of several Orthodox Rabbis in the US, but refusing to name the reasons behind the refusal to recognize the letters brought to them by certain Rabbinical figures.
Just this past week, the Rabbinate released statements clarifying the issue, stating issues with the Rabbis' "commitment to the customary and acceptable Jewish Halakha," according to both Israeli and American news outlets. The statements were particularly aimed at controversial "Open Orthodox" rabbis, among them Rabbi Avi Weiss, the group whose actions and suggestions for change with regard to women leading synagogue services, gay marriage, and belief in the unity of Torah authorship have threatened to split the Orthodox community from within, according to critics.
The tensions have also divided the American Orthodox community itself, as the Rabbinical Council of America faces allegations that their testimony helped lead to the Rabbinate's decision. The RCA rejected these claims on their website.
"The RCA regrets that the discussion concerning the reliability of American rabbis for technical matters under the aegis of the Chief Rabbinate has been used to promote broader issues relating to the contours of American Orthodoxy and its limits," the statement reads, claiming the allegations are "categorically untrue."
"The RCA believes that there are better places and ways to work through these issues," suggesting a meeting with the Chief Rabbinate to continue the dialogues the two institutions have taken care to have on controversial issues for many years.