The Conference of European Rabbis (CER) is launching a groundbreaking initiative through the creation of a new International Division.
Over the last few years, rabbis from outside Europe, notably from Latin America and Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East, have asked whether they too might benefit from some of the services that the CER already provides to European rabbis. In 2019, rabbis from Latin America made the request at the CER Convention in Antwerp, and now, rabbis from Muslim-majority countries have also made the request, with some, like the United Arab Emirates, seeing significant growth with new synagogues, kosher restaurants and Jewish community centers now opening.
During the 32nd Convention of the CER, held in Munich, Germany, at the end of last month, rabbis met to discuss how they might proceed. The conversation included chief rabbis and other leading rabbis from (in alphabetical order) Argentina, Azerbaijan, Chile, Colombia, Georgia, Guatemala, Iran, Mexico, Morocco, Panama, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay. They were even joined by a representative of Agudath Israel of America.
This body is to be overseen by Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, Chief Rabbi Korsia of France and Rabbi David Yosef of Israel. Close to 20 Rabbis from 17 countries in the Middle East Region and South America will be supported in matters relating to Beth Din procedures, religious training, and general community engagement, such as learning and outreach opportunities.
Gady Gronich, CEO and Chief of Staff to the President of the CER, and Rabbi Aharon Baskin of the CER, will lead the practical running of the Division. Aharon Kotler, President Emeritus at Beth Medrash Govoha, has also been involved in the formation of the International Division, expressing his desire to establish more kollelim (yeshivas for married men) in both South America and Europe.
Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt stated: “This is a truly historic moment for the CER. We are expanding our support to South America and the Gulf States. Wherever rabbis request our help we will aid them. We are proud to play our part in strengthening and celebrating Jewish life in Europe and in other communities around the world who have sought our help and expertise. It stands as a testament not just to the organisational strength of the CER, that has supported and advocated for European Jewry for over half a century, but also, thank G-d, to the flourishing of Jewish communities worldwide.”