Friday, July 25, 2008

Conversion crisis - R' Angel, R' Weiss & R' Riskin try to bypass Chief Rabbinate

Fed up with the Chief Rabbinate, Orthodox rabbis try an end run


Orthodox rabbis from the United States and Israel intend to set up an Orthodox court system as an alternative to Israel's rabbinical courts and to the rigorous norms for conversion to Judaism imposed on U.S. rabbis.

Rabbi Marc Angel, past president of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), and Rabbi Avraham Weiss spearheaded the initiative following Israel's Chief Rabbi shlomo Amar's restrictions on Orthodox conversions in America.

Angel and Weiss founded the International Rabbinical Fellowship (IRF) to set up an alternative Orthodox courts system, which will also have a branch in Israel.

Several prominent Israeli rabbis have joined this initiative, prompted by the conversion crisis in Israel.

Some three months ago several Israeli rabbis attended the IRF's founding conference. Among them were Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, of the West Bank settlement Efrat, Rabbi Yuval Sherlo and Rabbi Seth (Shaul) Farber, founder and director of ITIM, a non-profit organization that helps potential converts.

Weiss told Haaretz this week that the new organization was founded not because of the conversion crisis in Israel or the U.S. but due to the need for a "free discussion among Orthodox rabbis."

He conceded, however, that conversion will be at the top of the organization's agenda.

Riskin was more resolved. "This rabbinical court system is required to deal with conversions and divorce, two issues whose handling by the Supreme Rabbinical Court is appalling. We plan to set up several branches, including in Israel, or operate a mobile rabbinical court that will hold hearings in various places around the world as required," he said.

Weiss said he did not believe the Chief Rabbinate would boycott the new rabbinical courts' conversions "because we have numerous important rabbis behind us."

"If they don't accept our conversions, we'll go to the High Court of Justice," said Riskin. "In any case, I'd rather be part of a court system that reflects my belief, even if it is not accepted by the Chief Rabbinate."

Both Riskin and Weiss demand that each municipal rabbi in Israel have the authority to perform conversions. A proposal to this effect has been submitted to the Knesset by MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu).

Rabbi Amar's aide commented: "We don't operate courts overseas.

If the rabbis in the new organization are recognized by the Chief Rabbinate, there will be no problem. If not, they will have to undergo tests in order to be recognized."

Asked about an alternative court in Israel, the aide said: "In Israel there is no possibility of having a rabbinical court outside the rabbinical court system.

The ultra-Orthodox community has a special permit from the prestate era to operate a court that is recognized by the state.

Past attempts to set up additional courts failed, and they will not be approved in future either."

4 comments :

  1. More questions than answers are raised by this article.

    The article states:

    Rabbi Amar's aide commented: "We don't operate courts overseas.

    If the rabbis in the new organization are recognized by the Chief Rabbinate, there will be no problem. If not, they will have to undergo tests in order to be recognized."

    Asked about an alternative court in Israel, the aide said: "In Israel there is no possibility of having a rabbinical court outside the rabbinical court system.'

    So, what happens if the 'alternative beit din' rabbi is NOT recognized by the Chief Rabbinate?

    For example, someone is converted by the 'alternative beit din' and then goes to the Rabbinate to get married. The Rabbinate refuses to open a file because they do not recognize the rabbi that conducted the conversion.

    Then imagine a petition to the Supreme Court and the court ruling that the Rabbinate "must" accept the conversion - then what?

    Joel Katz
    Religion and State in Israel

    ReplyDelete
  2. Garnel IronheartJuly 25, 2008 at 3:42 PM

    Listen, even if the High Court passes a law that the State must register the convert as Jewish, it will make no difference.

    Mimah nafshach:
    If the person wants to marry a Chareidi, then he/she will be told in no uncertain terms that his geirus is not recognized and that there will be no marriage until he gets a "kosher" conversion. The High Court can't force that much on a community.
    If the person marries a non-religious or observant non-Chareidi, the conversion will be recognized anyway without the Rabbanut's seal of approval. But if any of their children want to marry Chareidim, then the real problems will begin.
    The solution is for the Dati Leumi to show they still have some cojones and take back the Rabbanut to restore some sanity to it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is going to open up a pandoras box. It will undermine the status quo therefore making it possible to open up state financed courts with conservative and reform rabbis in Israel.

    I said it once and I will say it again. Get rid of the rabbinate. The pros no longer outweigh the cons. Using courts to protect the integrity of the state of Israel is useless.

    Once again the dati leumi will not be able to point at the chareidim and say that they are the big, bad wolf. They are once again going to be forced to face very tough questions from mesorti activists who will claim that if you(the dati leumi) can open up your own independent courts that will be state recognized then why can't we?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hope they succeed in establishing a rabbinate that will work in E"Y for most Jews according to the halachas of Torat Hashem.

    ReplyDelete

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