Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Knesset member against Supreme Rabbinical Court rejection of Rav Druckmans' conversions

Recipients and Publicity wrote:

Opposing view against Rav Sherman's ruling from a Knesset member published in Haaretz
(click on link for full article)
The opposition to the Supreme Rabbinical Court ruling is not just from the Religious Zionist/Modern Orthodox rabbis. It also comes from the Israeli/Zionist secular society.

May 10, 2008

A split from Israeli society

By MK Menachem Ben Sasson Kadima) is the chairman of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

The Supreme Rabbinic Court's ruling last week, which voided conversions carried out by the rabbinic courts of the Conversion Administration, only speeds up the collapse of rabbinic authority in the state judicial system.

The verdict may be framed in legalese, but it should not be misunderstood. Every one of its 49 pages may be headed "The State of Israel," but the pronouncement represents nothing less than a split from Israeli society, the state and the national justice system.

The rabbinic courts' opponents should be pleased with this verdict and wait patiently for a few others like it to topple the rabbinic court system altogether.

Institutional authority in modern society does not derive merely from an institution's official status, nor from its formal power. It is based mainly on public consensus and the understanding that without proper institutions, people would devour each other.

The Supreme Rabbinic Court's ruling does not only void a specific decision by the conversion court but stipulates that its judges, rabbis Haim Druckman and Yosef Avior, are unfit and all their conversions are null and void. The Rabbinic Court is invalidating a legal instance that derives its formal authority from the same source as the Rabbinic Court - an official state appointment. By so doing, it leads the way to having its own courts treated in a similar fashion.


The loss of confidence in religious institutions is being accelerated mainly because of the distress of non-Jewish immigrants. They were given a partial remedy in the form of the conversion courts. Now the Supreme Rabbinic Court is obstructing the only two ways some 400,000 Israeli citizens can integrate into Israeli society - marriage and conversion.


Pulling the rug out from under the feet of yesterday's converts and digging a hole in front of tomorrow's is unacceptable. It will shatter what's left of the public consensus that the Supreme Rabbinic Court is worthy of running family issues in Israel. The court's revoking past and future conversions is tantamount to destroying the house and everyone inside.


  1. MK Menahem Ben-Sasson-

    - B.A. (with honors), History and Philosophy, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
    - PhD, History of the Jewish People in the Islamic Lands, Hebrew University
    - Research on Eastern Jewry
    - Professor of the History of the Jewish Nation
    - Post-Doctorate, Cambridge University

    Born in Jerusalem, Ben-Sasson served in a Nahal unit in Ein Tzurim and in the artillery section during his national service in the IDF.

    Fields of Research: Medieval Jewish history in Muslim lands. Social and intellectual history. Geonic Responsa and texts. Genizah research.

    Academic Studies
    1973-1975 The Heb. University Jewish Hist. , Jew. Phil., B.A.
    1976-1982 The Heb. University Jewish Hist. + Islamic Studies, PhD
    1983-1984 Cambridge University Genizah Research Unit Post Doc

    Professional Experience in Academic Institutions:

    Research and Teaching
    1976-1979 The Heb. University Graduate assistant - Jew. History
    1976-1978 Ben-Gurion University Graduate assistant - Jew. History
    1980-1982 Bar-Ilan University Assistant Lecturer - Jew. History
    1981-1982 The Heb. University Assistant Lecturer - Jew. History
    1983-1984 Cambridge University Visiting Fellow Genizah Studies
    1985-1995 The Ben-Zvi Institute Lecturer Hist. of Oriental Jews
    1985-1987 The Heb. University Lecturer Jew. History
    1986 BRGS Yeshiva Univers. Visiting Professor - Jew. History
    1988-1991 The Heb. University Senior Lecturer - Jew. History
    1991 (Summer) Oriental Institute Russian Academy of Science (Leningrad)
    1991-1996 The Heb. University Assoc. Prof. - Jew. History
    1994, 2003 UPENN -CJS Fellow
    1996 HU - Advanced Studies Fellow
    1996-now The Heb. University Prof. - Jew. History
    Between 1997 and 2001 he served as rector of the Hebrew University, and represented the Association of University Heads at Knesset committees. He has also served on the board of directors at Yad Vashem, as president of the World Union of Jewish Studies, and is as vice-president of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.

    Prior to the 2006 elections, Ben-Sasson was placed 20th on Kadima's list. With the party winning 29 seats, he entered the Knesset, and was appointed chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. He also served as chairman of the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee on Wiretapping, and chairs the Lobby for Higher Education.

    I do not see anywhere in Ben-Sasson's credentials "Rabbi", "Dayyan" or "Rosh Yeshiva".

    Ben-Sasson's judgments regarding Psakim of the Beit Din Hagadol of Rav Sherman are about as relevant as a tax auditor's opinions on heart surgery.

    Ben-Sasson's scholarhip of history does not qualify him as a halachic decisor, although I am sure he makes a fascinating dinner guest.

  2. To the best of my knowledge MK Menahem Ben-Sasson is a Sabbath Observant Jew.

  3. To Jesey Girl of May 14, 2008 11:43 PM:

    Again you miss the point. Nowhere does Ben Sasson claim to be a "rabbi or Dayan or Rosh Yeshiva" in this article or anywhere. So why throw in a Red Herring argument when his status as Jewish clergy is not under discussion.

    In this context Ben Sasson is speaking as a learned LAYMAN, what we call a BALEBOS, who happens to be in a position of political power. This is like the president or the chairman of the board of a synagogue or Beth Din or yeshiva speaking and such a person must also be respected for what he says.

    And by the way, in Israel, KNESSET members have a share in the vote and a huge say in who gets appointed in the official posts of the Israeli Chief rabbinate -- a job once held by no less a rabbinic personage than Rav Eliashiv shlit"a -- which is why the Charedi world rejects those rabbis as being tools of the Zionists (but that too is another discussion and a scenario which you are either ignorant of or overlook for your own convenience), since all serious and respectful views must be considered in a NATIONAL DEBATE about a matter that affects ALL Jews, not just rabbis or one group's interests, in order that if and when the time comes to make peace between all the sides EVERYONE should feel that they have been heard and that their views have been taken into full account.

    So quit this nonsense of knocking people down because this Blog spends plenty of time quoting from and posting articles from newspapers and media sources written essentially anonymous journalists but those views are important and must be noted and we know full well and do not need to be remidned from the peanut gallery that they are not rabbis or rebbes or dayanim or rosh yeshivas.

    Try to learn to LISTEN to all points of view of an argument and not just be selective and pick and choose what suits your own already made up mind.

  4. Mr. Ben Sasson's argument is without flaw, and demonstrates clearly how Zionism's population growth goals can only be achieved by disposing of Halacha.

  5. RaP:

    "learned layman, politicians and the like do not shape halacha in the Jewish religion".

    Only Gedolim can decide halacha.

    The Torah is not up for a vote. If it were, I would surely vote for ice cream after meat, 8 days of niddah and driving on Shabbat.

    Judaism is not a democracy, we do not have "equal rights under the law". There is a place for everyone and everyone in his place.

    A woman cannot give Birkat Kohanim or be a Rabbi according to our Torah anymore than a man can decide to give birth.

    Just as a Yisrael cannot decide to be a Kohen and a woman cannot decide to be a Rabbi, it is also true that any number of "balabatim" or members of Knesset cannot vote to allow Gentiles to be considered Jewish without conversion k'halacha.

    Conversion k'halacha, like all halacha is decided based upon the Psak of the Gedolim.

    Who is a Gadol is also not up for popular vote, if it were then I imagine that Yaakov Shweky would be in the lead or perhaps Lev Leviev or the Lubavitcher Rebbe (being dead shouldn't interfere with being a halachic decisor, after all according to the worlds most popular religion being dead doesn't stop one from being the Messiah).

    Some American Jews cannot understand the difference between Torah law and American law (why don't women "count" for a minyan, they have the right to vote??).

    Despite the fact that American law is based upon the Torah, our Torah is not based upon concepts determined good and just according to Western society.

    What is "good and just" according to Judaism is what is correct according to halacha.

  6. To Jersey Girl of May 15, 2008 10:56 PM: I can't believe it. There you go again flying off on your tangents and preaching to the converted because I am not even arguing with the points you raise.

    My ONLY point with regard to Mr. Ben Sasson was that he was was an example of a VERY intelligent Israeli politician who had expressed a very intelligent opinion and there is no need for you to carry on, and on, and on, first that he is not a rabbi (which noone said he was) and then to belittle an appreciation of how to HEAR what he has to say, so that you, and rabbis who you seem to think might act like you (might is right?), not come across as cruel dictators and absolute tyrants who don't care about the people they are decreeing upon when you utter your childish nonsense that "Judaism is not a democracy, we do not have "equal rights under the law". There is a place for everyone and everyone in his place."

    That makes Judaism sound like Communist or Czarist Russia or like Syria under the Assads the way you describe poor old scardy-cat Judaism. Sorry to tell you, but Judaism invented the higher and nobler notions of HOLINESS, FREEDOM, LIBERATION, HUMAN RIGHTS, THE RIGHTS OF MAN, WOMEN'S RIGHTS, THE GODLINESS OF ALL PEOPLE and many more such universalistic ideals and ideas that can be found all over in the Torah and the Pophets in the Tanach.

    One can argue from all sorts of views, but try to stick to the topic at hand and not destroy Mr. Ben Sasson because he has the guts to speak out about his concerns.

    What will happen when the Haredim finally take over Israel?

    Will they rule it like the Ayatolas rule Iran or the Saudis rule Saudi Arabia and women will be banned from everything accept from being baby machines, cooks and laundromats for their husbands?

    But I do not wish to annoy you too much just to show you that getting into all sorts of tangents in a discussion are not helpful, and certainly you should not preach to the converted (oops, ban pun here I guess!)


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.