ADL Voices Concern Over Israel Chief Rabbinate’s Decision to Question Status of American Orthodox Rabbis

UPDATE: In a January 15 letter to Rabbi Avi Weiss, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel reversed its earlier position, and affirmed that it will now accept all letters from Weiss confirming the Judaism of couples who want to wed in Israel. It remains unclear, however, if the Rabbinate will also accept the authority of the other Orthodox rabbis whose statuses had reportedly also been questioned.  

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New York, NY, January 6, 2014 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today voiced “concern and disappointment” with the way the Chief Rabbinate of Israel is questioning the status of prominent and long-established Orthodox rabbis and their ability to perform marriages according to Jewish law.

The League specifically cited the case of Rabbi Avi Weiss, a U.S.-based Modern Orthodox rabbi who heads the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, New York.  Rabbi Weiss recently had his status as a rabbi challenged by the Rabbinate, which ruled without a hearing that he could not vouch for the Jewishness of American couples seeking to marry in Israel.

“There already exist tensions between American Jews and Israel over the treatment of conservative and reform Jews and their rabbis,” said Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.  “Rather than seeking ways to alleviate those tensions, this action against Rabbi Weiss and possibly against other respected Orthodox rabbis opens up a further divide.  It suggests in the strongest ways that the Chief Rabbinate is solely determined to have its narrow view of what it means to be Orthodox triumph at the expense of the unity of the Jewish people.”

In a letter to Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau and Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, the ADL leaders wrote that the decisions against Rabbi Weiss and as many as 10 other religious leaders “send the worst kind of message about religion itself.”  The letter called on the Chief Rabbinate to reverse its decision “…to truly begin a process to unite, rather than divide, the Jewish people.”

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