3 Chabad Rabbis on Israel Chief Rabbinate Blacklist

Controversy has erupted after it was leaked today that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel had compiled a blacklist of some 160 rabbis from around the world, including many Orthodox rabbis and three Chabad rabbis, whose authority to approve Jewish and marital status it rejects.

Among those on the list is Rabbi Baruch Goodman, director of the Chabad house at Rutgers University in New Jerse; Rabbi Aron Moss of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia; and Rabbi Pesach Fishman of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Argentina had an unusually large number of rabbis on the blacklist, with 27 in total.

from the Tazpit News Agency:

A spokesman for Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said Monday that the chief rabbi was “stunned” at the existence of a blacklist of 160 rabbis, including several prominent American Orthodox leaders, who appear to have been banned by the Chief Rabbinate from performing conversions or confirming the personal status of immigrants.

The unnamed spokesman said the chief rabbi summoned Moshe Dagan, director general of the chief rabbinate, to explain the existence of blacklist, and said the document was composed and published without Rabbi Lau’s knowledge or approval. The document disqualifies 160 Diaspora rabbis from testifying that immigrants to Israel are Jewish.

According to the religious Zionist Kipa news site, an advisor to Lau said the chief rabbi was “stunned to discover the existence of this list.”

“The results of this action are very serious,” the unnamed advisor wrote. “First of all, it is inconceivable for a mid-level cleric at the chief rabbinate to decide on his own volition which rabbis the Rabbinate accepts and who it doesn’t. Second, there is no need to spell out the very serious consequences and the harm to certain rabbis, and especially to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.”

Sunday, Rabbi Seth Farber, founder of ITIM: The Right to Live Jewish, said the group has demanded clarification of the rabbinate’s criteria for accepting a rabbi’s competency to certify conversions and personal status. Farber’s organization, a non-profit group founded in 2002 to help guide Israelis through Rabbinate-led bureaucracy during significant life-cycle events: birth, marriage, divorce, burial, and conversion, also told TPS that the group would petition the High Court of Justice if the Rabbinate refuses to spell out the criteria.

The blacklist is only the latest in a long string of scandals surrounding Israel’s relationship with Diaspora Jewry, and especially with non-haredi streams of Judaism. Last month, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu infuriated American Jewish leaders by freezing an agreement to expand an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, and in 2015 tried to remove Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, a prominent modern Orthodox authority and founder of the West Bank town of Efrat, from his position as chief rabbi of that city.

The repeated fights with the chief rabbinate are too numerous to list, and have led many secular groups, and even some Orthodox ones, to call for the huge government bureaucracy to be dismantled. Others, however, say the organization has a critical role to play in Israeli society, but also say it needs deep reform.

“Israeli society is in the midst of an ongoing discussion about fundamental questions of identity,” says Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, a prominent modern Orthodox halachic authority and head of the Hesder Yeshiva Amit Orot Shaul in Kfar Batya. “And when you are talking about questions of identity it is natural for there to be a new scandal every other day, because you are not talking about procedural questions.

Speaking to TPS by phone, Cherlow said there is an unwritten agreement between haredi politicians and the big secular parties granting haredim control of Judaism in Israel, in exchange for their support for political policies on national and diplomatic issues. In effect, that created a status quo that defines Judaism in Israel in halachic terms – a positive outcome, in Cherlow’s view, but he cautions that defining the “official” religion of Israel as Orthodoxy also carries with it critical responsibilities.

“I certainly can appreciate that an Orthodox rabbinate must define for itself who is considered acceptable to make decisions, and who isn’t. It makes sense that the Orthodox rabbinate must outline clear definitions [especially when you’re dealing with Jewish groups that do not consider themselves to be bound by the tenets of Jewish law].

“At the same time, however, if the Rabbinate is not as inclusive as possible – that is to say, if the Rabbinate doesn’t go as far as halachically possible in order to be inclusive, it has betrayed its mandate to be a Rabbinate for all Jews, or at least for those Jews who consider themselves to be bound by the dictates of Jewish law.

“So the state must find a balance: If the state demands the existence of a Rabbinate that is faithful to Jewish law, it should also demand that that Rabbinate go as far as possible. Of course, there are limits that cannot be breached – we cannot declare babies born to a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother to be Jewish when the halacha on that matter is clear.

“But the State can care about that person, the State can include that person in the Law of Return, the State can offer a conversion possibility that is as user-friendly and inclusive as halachically possible,” Cherlow said.

18 Comments

  • 1. scandal wrote:

    i dont know the specifics but doesnt this sound like a positive kind of idea….standards and stuff?

    Reply
  • 2. interesting wrote:

    i am surprised not more lubavitch rabbonim…the level of learning and amhurzus in lubavitch is very high…wake up yidden and shulchim

    Reply
  • 3. Jack wrote:

    These Rabbi Who appointed them to have this authority to make the blacklist .The whole thing is hogwash

    Reply
  • 4. Problems of adoptees wrote:

    There are too many people who have been converted for the sake of marriage or adoption. In the case of marriage, the future spouse may not be religious or the community in which the couple lives has mostly people who are not strong in mitzvah ovservance. Adoptees are adopted often by couples that are not shomer Shabbos.

    Reply
  • 5. Can we see the list? wrote:

    I’m sure there are many issues with conversions and that standards are necessary

    Reply
  • 7. Avvi wrote:

    Please rewrite this article in a manner that demonstrates a view and a feeling that the Rebbe would agree with that promotes loving your fellow Jews and love of the Torah.
    The way it was presented mimics many of the mainstream media which encourages hatred opposition to Torah and its values and overall sìnas chinam. Today is a fast day due to sinas chinam. WAKE UP YIDDEN.

    Reply
  • 8. Moishe pipek wrote:

    #7 It is going to be sunny everyday except for the time rain is required.Everybody is going to be rich and healthy,

    Reply
  • 11. no one special wrote:

    #6, your comment is incorrect and irrelevant to the key issue.
    Does the Rabbanut have the right to set standards?
    This is the only relevant question, at this point.

    Reply
  • 12. white list wrote:

    Instead of reporting on the 3 chabad rabbis who are on the black list (by the way I believe none of them are officially shluchim), you could report on the hundreds who are on the white list.

    Reply
  • 13. Maybe it's time... wrote:

    BH
    BSD

    Maybe it’s time to come to a realization…
    some rabbinic stringencies are just that..I don’t believe that Rus herself would qualify as giyoress today..
    how long was it from the time Naomi and Rus came back to Eretz Yisroel..till she met with Boaz and he married her? Was it the “halachic” 3 years?
    Maybe it’s time..to start taking down fences that keep fine true Torah upholding people , Hashem loving humans out…and save embarrassment and ridicule that divides us…
    LOVE AND BLESSINGS TO ALL..

    M

    Reply
    • 14. Citizen Berel wrote:

      BH BH BH BH
      BSD BSD BSD
      BH BSD BH

      Freaking brilliant comment. Completely unhinged without a trace of irony.

      I award you the Citizen Berel comment of the day award.

      LOVE AND BLESSINGS TO YOU TOO

    • 15. Milhouse wrote:

      What halachic three years? The halacha requires three months, and yes, there was at least that long, since No’omi and Rus arrived at the beginning of the barley harvest and the challenge in the barn happened when the wheat harvest was already in and being threshed.

  • 16. The kangeroo wrote:

    Kol haposel bmumoi posel.Award yourself the Citizen Berel comment of the day,Such a award can be given even on Tisha Bav since it is a sad event. BH BH ETC.

    Reply
  • 17. Milhouse wrote:

    There is no blacklist. The definition of a blacklist is a list which is consulted in order to determine whether something or someone should be rejected. If there were a blacklist of rabbis who write letters attesting to people’s Jewish status for marriage then every rabbi on it would have all his letters rejected, and that is not the case.

    The list published is simply a compilation of every rabbi who had at least one letter rejected for any reason. A rabbi could have written 20 letters, 19 of which were accepted, but if there was a problem with one application, for reasons having nothing to do with the letter itself, his name would appear on this list.

    Reply
  • 18. shlomo wrote:

    I remember video when rebe z”l was asked about conversion from one of Israeli authorities and clearly answer lo lehitasec im ze(do not do this)

    Reply
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