Friday, December 19, 2008

Gedolim oppose R' Amar's new organization

Dei'ah veDibur: [forwarded by RaP]

December 18, 2008

Gedolei Yisroel shlita voiced their staunch opposition to Merkaz Rabbanei Eretz Yisroel, noting it poses a dire threat to the conceptual and halachic independence of rabbonim in Israel and could herald a takeover attempt that would foist certain opinions on all rabbonim and the entire public in Israel.

A short time ago Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar founded and became president of an organization called Merkaz Rabbanei Eretz Yisroel, which seeks to unite all rabbis in Israel. The aim of the organization is to serve as a supreme rabbinical body in the State of Israel and it threatens to place itself in a position to determine halacha and hashkofoh in every area for the entire public, including kashrus, mikvehs, conversion, etc.

Letters sent to all rabbonim in Israel intended to persuade them to join the organization listed the names of prominent rabbonim supposedly slated to serve on the presidential board without first seeking their consent.

Many rabbonim, including prominent rabbonim, declined to join whereas others have joined the new organization, which ostensibly seeks to uphold the Torah and the rabbinate without any ulterior motives. Others joined because they were concerned they might be targeted if they refused.[...]


  1. What is the whole thing about in any case?

    Who needs yet another rabbinical organization or any organization to save Klal Yisroel? There are plenty around and they only increase machlokes as Klal Yisroel sinks deeper into trouble. So wjat is RabbI Amar thinking? I would venture that he is a VERY naive man who has now overstepped his bounds and lost his credibility just at the moment he was riding high.

    Why is Rav Amar trying to reinvent the wheel when there already is one Israeli Chief Rabbinate with multiple departments?

    Who is "inspiring" him to make this move and what are his true motivations? This a great dissapointment because until now he was highly regarded by most gedolim and he in turn showed great deference to them. This a very surprisng turn of events, and hopefully it is not motivated by desires of personal gain or for fame and fortune Ch"vsh.

    Does he he think he can "unite" all rabbis at the very time when the leading rabbis are very publicly splitting apart? See this new report from YNET news:

    "Agudat Israel splits from Degel HaTorah

    Ten days before deadline for submission of Knesset rosters, House Committee approves breakup of Hasidic, Lithuanian United Torah Judaism groups. Dispute leading to chasm revolves around rotation of 6th, 7th spot on party list

    Ronen Medzini Published:
    12.18.08, 17:08 / Israel News

    The Knesset's House committee approved Thursday morning the split between the Hasidic Agudat Israel group and the Lithuanian Degel HaTorah group that make up the United Torah Judaism party.

    The approval came 10 days before the deadline for submission of party lists for the 18th Knesset elections.

    Degel HaTorah leader MK Avraham Ravitz told Ynet, "We've already started to set up headquarters under the assumption that we have no partners. We are responsible people. We would rather go together, but we will not be dictated to."

    Ravitz himself announced last month that he would not run for another term after serving 20 years in office.

    "We are not talking to deaf people – people who only want to talk and don't want to listen. We have guidelines and we have demands – we must change the order of the representatives in the party and the manner in which positions are selected.

    "If they take our demands seriously, we can have it over with in an hour, but when this hour will come, I do not know," Ravitz added.

    An Agudat Israel source also confirmed the split, saying, "We keep reaching out to keep the unity and peace, but if they insist on splitting, they will have to live with the consequences."

    Dispute over 6th slot

    The two groups have a long history of disconnecting and uniting. The main source of the current conflict revolves around the sixth spot on the united roster that traditionally goes to an Agudat Israel representative.

    Degel HaTorah has demanded the spot for one of their own, since the seventh slot on the list is not guaranteed to be realistic according to polls.

    According to the United Torah Judaism's constitution, the sixth and sevenths slots are to be rotated between the two groups.

    However, since the Israeli government in recent years has not been able to last a full term, Degel HaTorah officials are concerned that the rotation might not be put into effect.

    The Agudat Israel centeral committee is scheduled to convene on Thursday to elect the party's representatives ahead of the Knesset elections.

    The vote is a matter of formality, and barring any surprises the list is expected to include, in the following order, MK Yakov Litzman, MK Meir Porush, Rabbi Eliezer Moses and Yisrael Eichler.

    Alongside the chasm among the religious parties, the Knesset House Committee approved another split – the Meimad party, which will be running for Knesset with the Green Movement, has severed its ties with the Labor party.

    In the coming days the Hatikva movement's split from the National Union – National Religious Party is expected to be approved as well."

    So what Rabbi Amar is doing at this very moment is all very odd indeed! Does anyone know what's really going on?

  2. From the press release:
    Maranan verabonon said ruling on halachic matters and determining hashkofoh is in the hands of gedolei hador and the leading poskim, who set the path for the machaneh and decide every matter for Am Yisroel. They also called on rabbonim who are loyal to daas Torah to withdraw their support for the organization and cancel their membership.

    That whole paragraph gives me chills.

    Who are "Maranan verabonon", and why the cloak of anonymity? I'm much more inclined to distrust the shadow 'Rabbis' of Yeted than those who act plainly and in the open.

  3. before you get to carried away, check out this article on B'chadrei Chareidim questioning the veracity of the Yated's attack.

    The article questions if there were any actual Rabbonim who spoke against Rav Amar's idea, (note that the Yated doesn't name any, just the generic "Maranan V'rabanan" or "Gedolei Yisroel".
    It also intimates that the Yated's article may be no more than some personal vendetta.

  4. "Gedolei Yisroel shlita voiced their staunch opposition to Merkaz Rabbanei Eretz Yisroel, noting it poses a dire threat to the conceptual and halachic independence of rabbonim in Israel and could herald a takeover attempt that would foist certain opinions on all rabbonim and the entire public in Israel."

    So according Yated the Gedolim are worried that some standards may be forced upon all rabbonim and the entire public. Hhmmmmm!!!

    May be they are afraid Merkaz Rabbanei Eretz Yisrael will be overly strict on gerus and shitta issues? LOL!!!

    Serious though, it is time to make like chutz l'aretz and disband the rabbanut as it is now. In chutz l'aretz there are no national batei dinim that are not organic out growths of their respective indigenous communities. In places like New York and so forth where there are large communities with multiple hashgafot , there are batei dinim that reflect there hashgafa. Enough said about this. It is time to get rid of the rabbinute.

  5. I think people are forgetting that there has been an underlying tension between certain of the leading Sefardi Rabbanim and their Ashkenazi counterparts in Israel recently, especially on matters of conversion surprisingly enough, where one think that Sefardi rabbis would be more machmir as they were in America with the "Syrian rabbis' takana" against intermarriage: The Syrian ban on Converts (May 1, 2008):


    by Rabbi Dr. Zevuelen Lieberman

    TRADITION, 23(2), Winter 1988 © 1988 Rabbinical Council of America

    Dr. Lieberman is Rabbi of Congregation Beth Torah in Brooklyn, N.Y., one of the major synagogues of the Syrian-Sephardic Jewish community.

    . [Beginning of article deleted]
    A close-knit pattern of social and economic inter-relationships motivates most people to marry within the community; indeed, better than ninety percent of the families are intra-communally married. However, it is the realization that no converts whatsoever will be accepted that keeps all but the most marginally affiliated from embarking upon serious social relationships with non-Jews. In 1935, following the example of the Syrian-Sephardic Jewish community of Argentina, the Brooklyn beit din promulgated a ban on accepting any converts; this was reaffirmed by the rabbinical authorities in 1946 and 1972. These various proclamations were initiated by the community's rabbinical leaders. However, in 1984, sensing the increasing social rressures, the lay leaders initiated a public affirmation of the ban; they recognized it to be a necessary and effective tool for maintaining the'social cohesiveness of the community. The ban is based on the right of the community to promulgate takanot and prohibitions. This is codified in the Shulhan Arukh and goes back to talmudic times, when Rav found a problematic situation regarding oaths in the Babylonian community: Bik'a matsa ve'Kadar gader-"He found an open valley and built a fence."

    The current situation in America regarding conversions, where­bv most gerut is done for the purpose of marriage, represents a sham , and travesty of the Jewish tradition. But the Sephardic community's approach is proof of the power of a kehilla to protect its heritage and traditions, even though it may not be reproduceable across all American Jewish communities. Our ban does not necessarily deny the legitimacy of any specific conversion; it does deny the convert and his or her Sephardic spouse (and their children) membership in the community. Of course, it does not apply to descendants of people who underwent a legitimate conversion prior to 1935 or to adopted children converted at birth.

    What follows is an English translation of the Hebrew proclama­tions of 1935 and 1946, as well as the text of the 1984 proclamation.

    A RABBINICAL PROCLAMATION Adar 5695 (February 1935)

    We have observed the conditions prevailing in the general Jewish comrnunity, where some youth have left the haven of their faith and have assimilated with non-Jews; in certain cases they have made efforts to marry gentiles, sometimes without any effort to convert them, and other times an effort is made for conversion to our faith, .m action which is absolutely invalid and worthless in the eyes of the law of our Torah. We have therefore bestirred ourselves to build and establish an iron wall to protect our identity and religious integrity and to bolster the strong foundations of our faith and religious purity which we have maintained for many centuries going back to our country of origin, Syria.

    We, the undersigned rabbis, constituting the Religious Court, together with the Executive Committee of the Magen David Congregation and the outstanding laymen of the community, do hereby decree, with the authority of our Holy Torah, that no male or female member of our community has the right to intermarry with non. Jews; this law covers conversions, which we consider to be fictitious and valueless. We further decree that no future rabbinic court of the community should have the right or authority to convert male Or female non-Jews who seek to marry into our community. We have followed the example of the community in Argentina, which maintains a rabbinic ban on any of the marital arrangements enumerated above, an edict which has received the wholehearted and unqualified endorsement of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel. This responsa is discussed in detail in Devar Sha 'ul, Yoreh Deah, Part II to Part VI. In the event that any member of our community should ignore our ruling and marry, their issue will have to suffer the consequences. Announcements to this effect will be made advising the community not to allow any marriage with children of such converts. We are confident that the Jewish People are a holy people and they will adhere to the decision of their rabbis and will not conceive of doing otherwise.

    Chief Rabbi Haim Tawil
    Rabbi Jacob Kassin
    Rabbi Murad Masalton
    Rabbi Moshe Gindi
    Rabbi Moshe Dweck Kassab


    Adar 5706 (February 1946) On the 9th day of Adar I in the year 5706 corresponding to the 10th day of February, 1946, the rabbis of the community and the Committee of Magen David Congregation once again discussed the question of intermarriage and conversions. The following religious rabbinic decisions were promulgated and accepted:

    I. Our community will never accept any converts, male or female, for marriage.

    2. The rabbi will not perform any religious ceremonies for such couples, i.e., marriages, circumcisions, bar mitzvahs, etc. In fact, the Congregation's premises will be barred to them for use of any religious or social nature.

    3. The Mesadrim of the Congregation will not accord any honors to the convert or one married to a convert, such as offering himlln an Aliyah to the Sefer Torah. In addition, the aforesaid person, male or female, will not be allowed to purchase a seat, permanently (If for the holidays, in our Congregations.
    4. After death of said person, he or she is not to be buried on the cemetery of our community, known as Rodfe Zedek, regardless elf financial considerations. Seal of the Beth Din of Magen David Congregation
    Chief Rabbi Jacob S. Kassin


    WHEREAS. throughout the history of our community, our rabbis and lay leaders have always recognized the threat of conversions and the danger of intermarriage and assimilation; and have issued warnings and proclamations concerning these evils in February 1935, February 1946 and in May 1972. NOW. THEREFORE, we assembled rabbis and Presidents of the congregations and organizations of the Syrian and Near Eastern Jewish communities of Greater New York and New Jersey do now and hereby reaffirm these proclamations, and pledge ourselves to uphold, enforce and promulgate these regulations. We further declare that Shabbat Shuvah of each year be designated as a day to urge our people to rededicate themselves to these principles. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, we have caused this document to he prepared and have affixed our signatures thereto, at a special convocation held on this third day of Sivan 5744 corresponding to the 3rd day of June. 1984.

    Dr. Jacob S. Kassin Chief Rabbi

    The proclamation was signed by the rabbis and presidents of every synagogue. yeshivah. and social organization of the Sephardic Jcwish communities of New York and New Jersey."

    In addition, one needs to step back and recall that ealier this year (February 2008) Rav Moshe Shternbuch issued an important plea and letter especially calling the Israeli Sefardi rabbis to task and asking them not to get involved in the present-day conversions imbroglio. The original letter was published on this blog with a translation:

    "HaRav Sternbuch,shlita - Proposed conversion process threatens our existence! (February 12, 2008):

    Proposed conversion process threatens our existence!

    By HaRav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita

    (authorized translation by Daniel Eidensohn)

    We strongly protest against the Israeli governments decision (unfortunately supported by the religious Sefardim) to establish a committee to make conversions easier. This government effort is being made despite the fact that up until now thousands have been converted in disregard of the halacha. Now the government wants tens of thousands converted and at greater speed. To accomplish this greater quantity and speed of conversion they have established a committee together with the Sefardic Chief Rabbi and HaRav Druckman (who is well known for converting hundred’s and thousand’s not in accordance with the requirements of halacha). Anybody with basic intelligence knows that the Russian Christians who are converted are not interested in fully observing the mitzvos. In fact their motivation for conversion is simply to acquire the status of Jew because of social pressures or to obtain additional benefits. Not even one in a thousand of these gerim meet the requirements of the halacha. Therefore if until now there were thousands who converted against the halachic requirements, now we can anticipate tens of thousands of problematic gerim. In addition they will all now have the stamp of approval of the rabbonim mentioned above – certifying that all was done according to the “spirit” of halacha. This is truly a great disaster. In fact from the destruction of the Second Temple until now there has been nothing comparable to this.

    The Israeli government has offered a “solution” for this problem. They have offered to create a registry of those goyim who want to be “Jews” without conversion and the acceptance of mitzvos. They want to record on their Israeli identity cards and marriage certificates that these people are “Jews according to the standards of the government.” In this way these “gerim” will be distinct and separate from us. In other words they propose that the major limbs of the body will be amputated but they assure us that the body will remain alive and very strong! Their proposal needs additional thought and clarification. However even though it is problematic it is still better than what the rabbis are trying to do.

    In fact these Zionist rabbis and the religious parties - that still believe that the Israeli government is an integral part of the beginning of the Messianic Era and adheres to the spirit of the halacha – don’t agree to deal with this reality. However little by little, day by day these “Jews” will assimilate into our midst. The holy Shechina will depart from us. That is because it doesn’t rest amongst us except when we preserve our pedigree as our Sages (Kiddushin 70b) have told us. Consequently we are in great and horrible danger because of these developments.

    “I call out but there is no one who responds” (Yeshaya 66:4). “O that they would be wise so that they understand” (Devarim 32:29) that in the near future the land of Israel and its inhabitants will be in great danger. Anyone who is intelligent needs to simply open his eyes and he will understand the danger these proposal entail – and will distance himself from these compromisers.

    G‑d should give understanding to these mistaken people and they should merit to do His Will and save us from these perilous times that are coming soon. We should merit the complete Redemption – it should come speedily in the near future."

    Therefore what the latest call means, as published in the YATED and posted in Dei'ah veDibur, is that not only Rav Shternbuch and the BADATZ are worried and speaking out against Rav Amar's plans, but now it is also the rest of the Haredi leadership all the way to Rav Eliashiv because Dei'ah veDibur is very Haredi politically correct and serves as the mouthpiece for the Haredi party line as stemming from Rav Eliashiv's people and it would not dare say things in the name of
    "maranan verabanan" (a code word for all of Degel HaTorah and probably most of Agudas Yisroel) if Rav Eliashiv did not back it up and is probably the source of the reported outcry and protest against Rav Amar's plans at this time.

  6. I don't understand the complaints here about the Maranan and Rabbanan being anonymous.

    When one considers the sechar of being mevatel one's da'as to Maranan v'Rabanan, just think how much greater the sechar would be if you mevatel your da'as to those whom you cannot even identify!

  7. There is more background information as to the build-up to Rav Amar's proposals and why he is being opposed so strongly.

    There was a report in May 2008 that Chief Rabbi to attempt to revoke ruling which invalidates thousands of conversions (May 4, 2008):

    "Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, acting in his capacity as president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, will attempt to revoke a ruling from last week, which invalidated thousands of conversions carried out in Israel over the last few years, Haaretz has learnt.

    The judges, it emerges, went ahead with the ruling despite the stern objection of Amar, who is said to have been surprised by the decision.

    Amar tried to halt the publication of the ruling, according to which conversions to Judaism that have been conducted by Rabbi Haim Druckman - a prominent figure in Religious Zionism - are void, and the converts cannot be recognized as Jewish by the Chief Rabbinate.

    The ruling, which was already drafted in February, casts severe doubts on Druckman's conversion arrangements. The decision, made by a panel headed by the staunchly conservative Rabbi Avraham Sherman, stemmed from debating the divorce case of a woman who had been converted by Druckman 15 years ago."

    As well as a report that month about Chief Rabbi Amar - "we did not cancel any conversions!" (May 22, 2008):

    "Rabbi Amar referred to the Rabbi Druckman case, saying that “actually we did not cancel any conversion, but the specific case discussed was returned to the local rabbinical court. People claimed certain things and the religious judges said that if they will be proven as true, the conversion will be cancelled. In the meantime, we have not yet convened with the involved parties and thus I cannot express my stance on the issue.” The chief rabbi added that the amount of press surrounding this case is inappropriate. “Like in any situation, here too the judges are divided, and such is God’s way," Amar said."

    So Rabbi Amar has been playing his own cat and mouse games waiting for a time to have his say and he is consequently meeting with strong opposition to his long planned moves, especially as they impact conversion policy.

  8. Being that I don't follow this blog too closely, I am assuming that "Dovid"s comment is sarcastic. Unfortunately, these days, one never knows.

    However, I am curious to know if the Agudah will disband. That is a rabbinical organization and "Maranan V'Rabanan" is against that.

  9. In case you missed these two reports from Dei'ah veDibur about conversion conflicts issues in Israel:

    "14 Kislev 5769 - December 11, 2008

    Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur: The Chief Rabbinate Should Dissociate Itself from Conversion Authority

    By Yechiel Sever

    Muli Jesselson was recently selected to serve as director of the Chief Rabbinate's conversion administration in place of Moshe Klein, who was forced to resign for technical reasons after his predecessor, Rabbi Chaim Druckman, was forced into early retirement.

    Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur, founded by the late Gavad of Antwerp HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth, denounced the appointment, which was decided independently despite a promise that the selection would be coordinated with the Chief Rabbinate. Vaad HaRabbonim claims the job tender was directly influenced by Government Secretary Ovad Yechezkel, who on several occasions has declared conversion candidates should be given leniencies and their numbers should be increased. The Vaad has learned that Chief Rabbi Amar met with Jesselson and promised him full cooperation, despite the fact that Chief Rabbi Amar was not in favor of the appointment.

    "It's absurd for secular people who do not subordinate themselves to halacha to have the authority to appoint officials to the Conversion Authority without requiring the Chief Rabbinate's consent, particularly in the case of this appointment, which is a position involving spiritual matters and should be manned by a talmid chochom yirei Shomayim in order to reach decisions and set policies on the delicate issues related to conversion affairs. Jesselson is not known as a rabbinical figure and his unacceptable views on conversion are well known. He is currently serving as director of the department for conversion preparation at a Jewish studies institute that has been banned by all gedolei Yisroel shlita and by the Chief Rabbinate as well because it collaborates with Conservative organizations."

    The Vaad also expressed concerns that an unsuitable appointment for the post of Conversion Administration chairman could be next.

    Vaad HaRabbonim is calling on the Chief Rabbinate to absolve itself of responsibility for the Conversion Authority and stop recognizing the conversions it performs. "The Chief Rabbinate cannot certify conversions that are not under the control of rabbonim yirei Shomayim from the early preparation stage through the end of the conversion process if the conversion candidates do not undertake genuine mitzvah observance in full," said a Vaad HaRabbonim spokesman.

    According to directives issued by maranan verabonon shlita the entire conversion issue should only be handled only by a limited conversion system run by knowledgeable dayanim with a fear of Heaven and in accordance with halacha in its unadulterated form, and the conversions themselves should be performed at reputable, permanent botei din."

    And this:

    "22 Cheshvan 5769 - November 20, 2008

    National-Religious Ally With Secular to Set Up New "Conversion" Courts

    By Yechiel Sever

    Rabbonim and dayanim are protesting an alliance between secular and religious Zionists to set up conversion courts not associated with the Chief Rabbinate. These courts plan to add to the Reform and Conservative conversions performed through "secular conversion" and "national-religious conversion." These procedures will not qualify the so-called converts to marry through the Rabbinate, but according to a High Court decision the Interior Ministry will be obligated to list them as Jews in the population registry.

    The main reason behind the new secular/national-religious coalition is the requirement of the Rabbinate that converts follow an observant lifestyle and educate their children to do the same, a fundamental demand without which any conversion is rendered invalid. The coalition was formed in response to this requirement, which prevents enormous assimilation and mass conversion among immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and following a ruling by the Rabbinate's Beis Din Godol that invalidated a conversion in which Rabbi Chaim Druckman Overlooked the requirement to accept Torah and mitzvas.

    In response to announcements regarding the new "conversion" program, this week MK Menachem Ben Sasson (Kadima), chairman of the Knesset Constitution Committee, called for efforts to break the Chief Rabbinate's monopoly on conversion and marriage. Ben Sasson said he would promote an initiative to introduce these so-called conversions at "pluralistic conversion courts."

    Rabbonim and dayanim issued harsh remarks against the partnership between secular and national-religious organizations, noting that dayanim have long been raising an outcry against conversions by Rabbi Druckman and other national-religious figures that have sunk to the level of Reform "conversions." Now this sector has begun to actively join forces with the Reform Movement in undermining the Jewish religion. Though predictable this decline remains deeply disturbing.

    "The truth is this coalition has been operating in the Knesset for years," said MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni. "It has no authority or practical ability to act in conversion matters. Worst of all is that this coalition includes religious Zionists who we see in Knesset committees waging war against halacha and things sacred to Judaism. This coalition is clear evidence for those who still have doubts, of the battle waged by gedolei hadoros against ostensibly religious figures who favored compromise on every sacrosanct issue, fighting against the chareidi sector and its rabbonim.

    "MK Ben Sasson wears a yarmulke on his head, but does not even merit a response. In all his actions throughout his two-and-a-half years as chairman of the Constitution Committee, he has surpassed the secular representatives in his instigations and actions toward undermining conversion, the status of the botei din and other issues. His actions reached new heights on the last day the Knesset was in session when he pushed through the Relative Funding Law, which stands in contradiction to halacha."

    MK Rabbi Uri Maklev (UTJ) said, "We saw this trend during the past Knesset term: national-religious figures driven to alter accepted halachic practices — which makes them worse than the general population. This cannot be allowed to come to fruition and I hope during the upcoming term we manage besiyata deShmaya to prevent these dangerous remarks from having an impact"."


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.