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A message to the RCA: Join us and raise your voice

A message to the RCA: Engage with the Israeli public to end the Chief Rabbinate's political stranglehold on conversion

The most recent uproar against disgraceful action by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate surrounds their reported unwillingness to recognize halachic conversions approved by Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz of the Rabbinical Court of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA).

As disturbing and disappointing as this story is, it is only the latest in a series of similar actions by the Chief Rabbinate.

But we would be making a serious mistake if we were to dismiss this decision as in any way linked to the Rabbinate trying to impose a stricter interpretation of halacha.

Rather, this decision has nothing to do with halacha and is all about politics and the Rabbinate wishing to flex its muscles.

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel, a body which should be charged to care for the interests of ALL Jewry, regardless of their particular affiliation of observance, has no such desire.

Rather, they have made it very clear that they view all forms of Judaism other than their own interpretation of Haredi Judaism as invalid. Driven solely by politics, the Chief Rabbinate has no interest in caring for the interests of the national religious population and certainly not the secular population. And any non-Haredi element among Diaspora Jewry has no chance to gain any respect.

So let us lay the facts out on the table so there is no confusion.

This is not a decision about which convert can or cannot be accepted.  That is simply the case that has come to the public fore today.

Rather, this is a politically driven campaign to state that ALL Jews living in the Diaspora who don’t share the Haredi outlook of the clerks and leadership of the Chief Rabbinate are illegitimate in their eyes.

Rabbi Schwartz, a Torah scholar of the highest regard and someone who has dedicated his life to teaching and inspiring fellow Jews, is therefore invalid because of his association with the RCA, a body which the Chief Rabbinate views through the lens of “national religious” — or in other words “not Haredi.”

While it is never appropriate to blame the victim, I do feel it is necessary to speak directly to the RCA and say that if they want the perspective to change they need to begin to play the game differently.

For years, the RCA has hoped to appease the Chief Rabbinate and convince them that everyone is on the same team.

Sadly, a policy of appeasement and peace-making has not and will not work in what is entirely a politically-charged environment.

The RCA needs to begin to wage the battle with the tools that the Chief Rabbinate recognizes.

They need to engage the Israeli public and its political officials to appreciate that they have a valid voice, and that just because America is in their title doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be recognized and appreciated here in Israel.

I have a great deal of respect for the RCA and deeply admire many of its members who have strengthened the Jewish community in America and encouraged greater bonds with the people and land of Israel.

But the time has come for the RCA to join us in this campaign that affects the very future of our nation.

We are here for you as you have been there for us. But the times of political correctness and sensitivities are in the past.

For the good of all the people of Israel, let us commit that, in the coming year, we will all engage in this effort to end the Chief Rabbinate’s political stranglehold on these issues and create a better and more loving world for ALL of Am Yisrael.

About the Author
Rabbi David Stav is the Chief Rabbi of the City of Shoham, Founder & Chairman of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization.
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