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Welcome To Our World: The Rabbinate Rejects Orthodox Jews, Too
Wed, 01/08/2014 - 19:00
Rabbi Steven A. Fox
Rabbi Steven A. Fox

It was inevitable. Once they came after Reform, Conservative and other progressive Jews, it was only a matter of time until the Chief Rabbinate turned on other Orthodox Jews.

In October, the Chief Rabbinate informed Rabbi Avi Weiss that his letters regarding Jewishness and personal status would no longer be accepted. Rabbi Weiss then published a blog calling for the end of the Chief Rabbinate. This week the office of the Chief Rabbinate issued its reasons for the decision, the first time such reasons have ever been published.

Rabbi Avi Weiss’s commitment to Halachah, combined with his clear-eyed understanding of the world in which we live today and the need to prepare contemporary Orthodox rabbis for this reality, make him one of the great Jewish leaders of our time. (The same can be said for his successor, Rabbi Asher Lopatin.)

In publishing its reason – that Rabbi Weiss shows insufficient commitment to Jewish Law – the Chief Rabbinate presents a pre-text, not text. Yet again they have:

1. Proven that the Chief Rabbinate is interested in protecting its own status, power and privilege, far more than it is interested bringing people into Jewish life.

2. Perpetrated a fundamental abuse of human rights in Israel where, because of the Chief Rabbinate, Jews are denied their right of free expression and their right to live Jewishly.

3. Affirmed through their actions that the Chief Rabbinate disenfranchises the vast majority of the Jewish people and its rabbis.

The Chief Rabbinate’s unilateral and unchecked control over Jewish life in the State of Israel, with its cascading impact on Diaspora Jewry, needs to end.

While I continue to feel badly for Rabbi Weiss, I also need to say, “welcome to our world.”

For generations, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has discriminated against Reform, Conservative and other progressive Jews and their rabbis. It is important to note, we are the largest contingent of Jews throughout the world. The Chief Rabbinate tries to delegitimize our status as rabbis, and to deny Judaism to the Jews we lead to Jewish life through marriage, conversion and B’nai Mitzvah. The Chief Rabbinate seeks over and over to maintain its power and control over financial resources in Israel.

Issue by issue, we need to wrest control away from those who declare themselves to be Chief of Jewish life and to narrow their influence to being Chief of A Small Circle of Orthodox life. We need to expand the rights of all Jews to marry, convert, pray at the Western Wall and share in the State’s financial support of religious life.

Rabbi Weiss said it perfectly: “The time has come... to pronounce in clear terms that the Chief Rabbinate will no longer have a monopoly on the religious dictates of the State... As the motto goes, power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”


Rabbi Steven Fox is the Chief Executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Rabbinic leadership organization of Reform Judaism with 2000 rabbis leading 1.5 million Jews in synagogues, organizations, military and other community settings.

CCAR, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Rabbi Avi Weiss, Rabbi Steve A. Fox, the Israeli Rabbinate

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The Rabbinate in Israel is comprised of people who have devoted themselves full time to torah, the Jewish people and the Jewish land. At best, American Rabbis can only devote themselves to the first 2. Why don't they even the playing field and join us here in Israel?

Until they join us, American Rabbis of all sorts will continue to be marginalized by the Israeli Rabbinate.

Dear Rabbi Steven A Fox,
You are not a Jew. Your children are not Jews. Furthermore, even the ultra-orthodox "haredim" are not Jews, they are ultra-orthodox mosaics, because this is the real name of this religion, the mosaic religion (Dath Moshe). Actually, there are no Jews nowadays.
Please, understand: "Jew" is the pejorative diminutive for "Judean". In the tribes period, a person belonging to Judah's tribe was a Judean, as a person belonging to Levi's tribe was a Levite, and so on. In the kingdoms period, a Judean was a inhabitant of the "Judea" kingdom. Since in our days a stately entity named Judea doesn’t exist, and since we are not members in Judah’s tribe, and since we have reconstituted the Hebrew national state, the Hebrew national culture and the Hebrew national institutions, only the Hebrew identity is of actual significance and validity.
The Hebrew nation has its roots in the ancient Hebrew tribes, in the biblical Hebrew patriarch Abraham, in Moses the Hebrew and the Hebrew slave he saved, in the Hebrew states Israel, Judea, Tyre and Sidon, in the Hebrew kings who reigned this states and in the numerous Hebrew people who lived there and from there was forcedly deported into exile.
After two thousand years, the Hebrew people has returned to its Hebrew homeland, language, nationality, and on Nov. the 30, 1947, a day after the UN decision, the title of “Yediot Acharonot” proclaimed: “Hebrew State” (“Medinah Yvrith”).
The Hebrew national state and the Hebrew national culture are the sole warrant for the continuation of our national existence.
It’s important to mention that, along history, the anti-Semites adopted pejorative and offending names towards the Hebrews, derived from the word Judean, like: Jew, Jude, Juif, Jidan. We, the Hebrews of our days, should not accept, and, of course, should not use, the above pejorative names: We are Hebrews, Hebräer, Hebreux, Ebrei etc., as actually the ethnical Hebrew calls himself in Russia, Ukraine and Bulgaria (Evrei), in Romania (Evreu or Ebreu), in Italy (Ebreo), etc. In certain languages, like Russian and Romanian, both denominations exist: one used by the Hebrew ethnics and by people which respect them, the translation of the word “Yvri”, Hebrew, such as Evreu, Evrei etc., and the second, pejorative, in the use of the anti-Semites, created from the word “Yehudi”, Judean, such as Jidan, Jid etc.
In most countries of Western Europe two denominations were in use, e.g., in Old French, which migrated to Britain with the Norman Conquest, there was the respectable Ebreu opposite the pejorative Gyu (and Giu), which became to “Jew” in English, but the use of the denomination Ebreu has ceased with the aggravation of the anti-Semitism along the crusades period. In Italian, there is only one term: “Ebreo”.
From the point of view of The Hebrew State and the Hebrew communities in the world, these persons should be considered Hebrews:
- All the citizens of The Hebrew State should have Hebrew nationality.
- A citizen of another state is Hebrew ethnic if he stands in one of the
following criteria (which should be mentioned in the repatriation law):
1. One of his parents (mother or father) is Hebrew ethnic.
2. Has direct family ties (marriage or child adoption) with a Hebrew ethnic.
The ethnical based appurtenance sets the number of Hebrews in the world to more than thirty million people supporting a process of multiplication and addition, in contrast to the religious based appurtenance which reduces the number of the “Jews” to about twelve million people, whom number is continuously decreasing, since the religious based appurtenance excludes and drives away the many who are not able or are not willing to adapt to the religious criteria. In the USA alone, over a million and a half are disqualified since only the father is a “Jew”, millions - being atheists and not having liaisons with the religious institutions, or because they affiliated to another faith.
We were Hebrews, we are Hebrews, and we shall remain Hebrews!

No one seems to be asking why this problem has continued for so long. I believe the reason is clearly shown in Rabbi Fox's article. Here it is: "3. Affirmed through their actions that the Chief Rabbinate disenfranchises the vast majority of the Jewish people and its rabbis."

We will never solve this problem until we sop believing that somehow the Orthodox or the Chief Rabbinate is responsible for it. Israel is (or is supposed to be) a democracy. The Orthodox in Israel represent about 20% of the population. Since when has 20% of any population control a democracy?

The problem is the responsibility of Israel's majority, which I believe are labeled "secular". Until this majority stands up for our human rights the problem will remain. It is the majority of what are supposed to be our fellow Jews in Israel that is our problem. Let's face it and let's deal with it.

So Rabbi Steven Fox of CCAR endorses Rabbi Weiss? With endorsements like that, he will continue to go far...down the tubes.