Letter to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel on Status of American Orthodox Rabbis

January 06, 2014

Rabbi David Lau
Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef
Chief Rabbinate of Israel 

Dear Rabbi Lau and RabbiYosef:

As leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization committed to combat anti-Semitism, to work for the safety and well-being of Jews everywhere and to a strong relationship between the U.S. and Israel, we write to express our concern and disappointment in the way the Chief Rabbinate is dealing with Rabbi Avi Weiss.

Your questioning his status as an Orthodox rabbi in challenging his affirmation of the Jewishness of a couple looking to marry is disturbing on its own.  Even more disturbing are indications that this is part of a developing trend, as reports are emerging that there may be as many as ten long-established Orthodox rabbis who may be treated the same way as Rabbi Weiss.

There already exist tensions between American Jews and Israel over the treatment of conservative and reform Jews and their rabbis.  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.

On a basic level, the Chief Rabbinate approach threatens to alienate many young Jews from considering a more traditional approach to Judaism.  Such a witch hunt -- what else is there but that to call the rejection of respected Orthodox leaders -- sends the worst kind of message about religion itself.

And, at a time when we are all struggling to persuade our young American Jews to care about their Jewish identity and support Israel, this treatment of Rabbi Weiss makes those goals all the more difficult.

We therefore call on you to reverse this trend and truly begin a process to unite, rather than divide, the Jewish people.


Barry Curtiss-Lusher
National Chair

Abraham H. Foxman
National Director