Waving Israeli and U.S. flags and posters of Gilad Shalit, hundreds of Jewish activists on eight ships sailed up the East River to the United Nations on Thursday to call for action on behalf of the Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas for four years.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations organized two large passenger boats and several groups joined the flotilla on sailboats and other pleasure craft as it rounded lower Manhattan from the West Side. The flotilla set sail on the eve of the fourth anniversary of Shalit’s capture.
A long-awaited agreement between America’s centrist Orthodox rabbinical group and Israel’s chief rabbinate on standards for conversion to Judaism remains fragile and may still be scuttled. Even the leading players involved contradict each other as they dispute the exclusive right to certify rabbis as fit to perform conversions in the U.S.
The Rabbinical Council of America issued a strongly worded statement Tuesday rebutting criticism from Rabbi Mordecai Tendler and his supporters over his expulsion last month from the Orthodox rabbis’ group. Rabbi Tendler and his supporters, who include prominent Orthodox rabbis, have made public statements indicating that he tried to provide his side of the story to the RCA in person and they consider the organization’s move to be illegitimate.
A lawyer for the synagogue where Rabbi Mordecai Tendler works has written to the Rabbinical Council of America demanding proof of the wrongdoing for which the rabbinic group expelled the spiritual leader. Last month the RCA expelled Rabbi Tendler, a member of a respected rabbinic family, for unspecified “conduct inappropriate for a rabbi” and not cooperating with its 15-month investigation into charges that he engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with several congregants who had come to him for counseling.
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, spiritual leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and recently retired head of the Ramaz Jewish day schools on the Upper East Side, is one of Modern Orthodoxy’s elder statesmen. He will soon celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination, but rather than reflecting on his accomplishments with unfettered joy — which include helping between 300 and 400 people convert to Judaism — he is feeling deeply pained about the direction the Orthodox rabbinate is taking when it comes to conversions, and conflicted about his own role in the system.
Israel’s Chief Rabbinate this week announced details of an unprecedented power-sharing agreement with the main association of Orthodox rabbis in the U.S., in a deal that will determine how Orthodox conversions to Judaism here take place.
In a renewed effort by the Orthodox movementís Rabbinical Council of America to prevent future instances in which husbands refuse to grant their wives a get or religious divorce, the organization has adopted a resolution asking members to refuse to officiate at weddings at which the couple has not signed a prenuptial agreement. Rabbi Basil Herring, executive vice president of the RCA, said that about five years ago 60 percent of his organization's more than 950 members said they would make every effort to encourage couples to sign a prenuptial agreement.