Communist Mentality in the Rabbinate

David Rubin,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
David Rubin
David Rubin is former mayor of Shiloh, Israel. He is founder and president of Shiloh Israel Children"s Fund, and the author of five books, including The Islamic Tsunami and his latest, More Sparks From Zion. For more info, click on these links: or

The recent Cabinet decision supporting the Shas-controlled Religious Affairs Ministry's demand to reject improvements to the rabbinical conversion system that had been previously approved by Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan (Jewish Home) was disappointing to all who want to see a more welcoming Chief Rabbinate.

Minister Ben Dahan's improvements to the system had been made with an an eye to finally meeting the challenge of tens of thousands of Israelis who are not halachicly Jewish. Many of these cases involve young adults who are children of Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers. Ben Dahan, in his role as Deputy Religious Affairs Minister in the last government, had enacted reforms aimed at streamlining the conversion process, which has long been criticized as being unduly bureaucratic, and certainly not “user-friendly,” by allowing prospective converts to engage the process with Orthodox community rabbis outside their local municipality.

 Freshman MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home-Tekuma) has taken a surprisingly closed-minded approach on the conversion issue, calling the decision to dump Ben Dahan’s reforms “a positive and necessary one for the Jewish people”, adding that “when we take away from the Rabbinate responsibility for the standards of conversion and allow various organizations and institutes to determine their own standards as they see fit, this will eventually lead to a situation where we can no longer be united.”

“Even worse, he continued, those whose conversions are not approved by the Rabbinate will not be accepted by large numbers of Jews, who would suspect the veracity of their conversion,” he added, pointing out another reason for his approval of the decision.

Smotrich’s stand is disturbingly near-sighted in its flawed understanding of “unity” and of “the Rabbinate”. The Chief Rabbinate, in its excessively centralized capacity, has failed miserably in solving one of the most serious social challenges facing the Jewish people today, effectively closing the door to halachic conversion. Just as in pure Communism, in which a lack of competition invariably leads to stagnation, the unwillingness of the haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate to decentralize and to delegate responsibility to a variety of Orthodox rabbis will freeze the process of making Judaism warm and welcoming to a sector of Israelis who have risked their lives for our nation. Indeed, many of those families had left the forced assimilation of the Soviet gulag hoping to be accepted in Israel as members of the Jewish people. It’s indeed ironic that formerly Soviet Jews are being subjected to a strictly centralized, unwelcoming system that, in its structure, replicates and reminds them of the rigid, oppressive Communist system that they escaped from.

Smotrich’s concern that “various organizations and institutes” would determine standards of conversion in a decentralized system is wholly unwarranted. What organizations is he referring to? Perhaps he's referring to the organization of Orthodox Tzohar rabbis that has worked tirelessly to reopen doors, according to halachic standards, to these lost Jews with love and kindness? Does he actually doubt the halachic integrity of Rabbi Ben Dahan and the many outstanding community rabbis who supported his efforts and many of whom would have been present on the local conversion courts?

The last thing that the Jewish Home party needs is a resident cheerleader for the renewed haredi domination of the religious establishment, promoting a failed conversion system, a remnant of the worst intolerance and stagnation that, like it or not, is usually inherent in a heavily centralized system. Yes, the top usually loves absolute power and, sadly, that also includes some rabbis, but unity cannot and will not be achieved without simultaneously reaching out to all sectors of the Jewish population within the halachic system. If we continue in the present course, we will only increase intermarriage and assimilation in the Land of Israel. And that is the opposite of Jewish unity.