Press Release

ADL Strongly Condemns Rejection of Prominent New York Rabbi by Israel’s Supreme Rabbinical Court

New York, NY, July 14, 2016 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today strongly condemned the decision by Israel’s Supreme Rabbinical court to reject the authority of prominent New York Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein by invalidating his conversion of an American woman to Judaism.

ADL called the court’s decision a “slap in the face” to American Jewry, including those who have chosen to join the Jewish people, and said it highlights just how extreme the Israeli Rabbinate has become on Jewish lifecycle issues.

On July 13, Israel’s highest religious court upheld a lower court’s decision that a conversion performed by Rabbi Lookstein for an American woman engaged to marry an Israeli Jew was invalid because, in the court’s judgment, he was not authorized to perform conversions. Many in Israel, including Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, had expressed their support for Rabbi Lookstein.

“The Supreme Rabbinical Court’s rejection of Rabbi Lookstein’s authority is a slap in the face to millions of Jews in America and across the globe,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “The Rabbinate’s ironclad control over lifecycle issues in Israel has long been problematic, particularly its refusal to recognize the authority of non-Orthodox Jewish denominations.”

Mr. Greenblatt added, “This is damaging Israel’s image as a home for all Jews.”

“The court’s rejection of Rabbi Lookstein, who has been one of the most respected and revered Orthodox rabbis for more than five decades, highlights just how out of touch with the vast majority of Jews in Israel and around the world the Rabbinate has become,” said Carole Nuriel, Director of ADL’s Israel Office. “We urge the Israeli government to take measures to address this growing problem, including through steps that restrict the Rabbinate’s control over lifecycle issues.”

ADL has previously voiced concern over various issues surrounding the Rabbinate on its decisions questioning the status of Orthodox Rabbis, and how its approach often threatens to alienate many young Jews from considering a more traditional approach to Judaism.