U.S. rabbis demand answers on 'blacklist'

Two Jewish organizations demand clarification from Israel Chief Rabbinate on alleged “blacklist” of 160 rabbis.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Israel's Chief Rabbis
Israel's Chief Rabbis
Ya'akov Cohen/Flash 90

The liberal ITIM and Ne’emanei Torah Ve’Avodah organizations are demanding a clarification from the Israel Chief Rabbinate on an alleged “blacklist” of 160 Diaspora rabbis who are not recognized.

Israel's Chief Rabbinate clarified earlier this week that no such blacklist exists, but ITIM’s founder, Rabbi Seth Farber, known for anti Chief Rabbinate positions on conversion and personal status, rejected the Rabbinate's explanation.

ITIM and Ne’emanei Torah Ve’Avodah turned to the Rabbinate on behalf of Rabbis Adam Scheier, Open Orthodoxy founder Rabbi Avi Weiss, Rabbi Elan Adler and others. They asked the Israel Chief Rabbinate’s legal adviser to provide explanations on why these rabbis were included in the list of rabbis whose certification of Jewishness were revoked during 2016 by the Israel Chief Rabbinate.

Among the claims brought forward by the two organizations were harm to the rabbis’ reputation and “a disgrace of our clients, and much concern among their congregants.”

The letter sent by the organizations further said that not recognizing the rabbis represented by the NGOs deepens a crisis of trust now created between non-mainstream Orthodox Jews of the diaspora and the rabbinical institutions of Israel.

The list of claims by the two organizations also says that as long as the rabbinate keeps to its position not to recognize rabbis represented by ITIM and Ne’emanei Torah Ve’Avodah, this means that the rabbinate effectively “doubts the thousands of kosher Jews living in the U.S.” since if the rabbis and the certificates they have written are disqualified, then the status of the congregation and its members is also in doubt.

The solution sought by the two organizations and their clients with the Rabbinate is first and foremost that the Rabbinate completely rescind all its decisions regarding the certificates issued by the rabbis mentioned above. The rabbis also want to receive, “each one of them, the details of the requests to the marriage and conversion department that have brought about the rejection of their certificates, and an explanation for the reason or reasons due to which the said certificates were rejected, with all documents relevant to these decisions attached.”

ITIM is highly critical of the Chief Rabbinate on issues of personal status and conversion, seemingly wanting non-Orthodox conversions to be recognized for purposes of marriage and not only for citizenship, as they are today.. The list turned out to be made up of rabbis who had sent a letter certifying someone's Judaism which was rejected for any reason, technical or substantive.

Lawyer Elad Kaplan, legal advisor for ITIM, claimed that “the Chief Rabbinate is committing an ongoing disgrace to hundreds of Jews who seek recognition of their Jewishness every year when they arrive in Israel from abroad. The list we received clarifies that an injustice was also done toward rabbis who are great scholars of Torah, while disqualifying them and harming their good name. Therefore, we are committed to act to clear the name of rabbis of communities abroad and to have the many people who rely on their certificates when they come to Israel to marry here accepted again.”

Lawyer Assaf Benmelech, from the Ne’emanei Torah Ve’Avodah, added, “Disqualifying the Jewish certificates of the rabbis of the open Orthodoxy in the United States by the Israel Chief Rabbinate shows that the rabbinate has failed in understanding the religious reality in the U.S. – as well as showing that it is incapable of coping with any religious concept that is not Orthodox. The damage wrought on Israel-diaspora relations is immense, but the damage to the rabbinate may have gone beyond repair.”

On Sunday, in opposition to ITIM and Ne'emanei Torah Ve'Avodah, leading Religious Zionist rabbis and yeshiva heads will be holding an afternoon Conference titled "Zion and Jerusalem" supporting the centrall importance of the Chief Rabbinate's role in Israel. It will also address the issues of religious soldiers in the IDF and Reform Jewry's attempts to gain a foothold in Israel.. Featured speakers are Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, Petach Tikva Chief Rabbi Micha Halevi, Merkaz Harav Yeshiva dean Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, Sderot Yeshiva head Rabbi David Fendel and others..