“Consistoria Disassembla Est!” (The Rabbinate Must Be Dismantled) – My personal battle cry
I am an observant Modern Orthodox Jew. I also believe that Religion needs to be separated entirely from the State. That means no Rabbanut, no Religious Councils, no Ministry of Religious Services of any kind. The state should be entirely neutral on matters of religion and religious services much like it is in the United States.
Some people argue for separation in order to save the State from Religion; I am doing so to save Religion from the State. Hardly a day goes by when some scandal involving corruption or abuse of religious officials isn’t reported. One day it’s batei din giving potential converts hell, another it’s marriage registrars who run candidates through their own personal Star Chamber or Mikva ladies who make demands so stringent and ask such embarrassing, probing questions that scores of women never visit a Mikva again. The list goes on.
Some might ask what the difference is between stories of corruption and abuse in religious government offices and their secular counterparts. My answer? Simply this: when secular offices treat citizens with abuse or are exposed for being corrupt, then Israelis curse the government. When the same happens with religious government offices, Israelis more often than not curse God or Judaism or both. These offices and services are one continuous hillul hashem, a desecration of God’s name both within the country and without.
There are some who would argue that the solution is simply to improve the service. With someone like Rav David Stav at the head, perhaps an institution like the Rabbanut could become like Tzohar, a far more user-friendly Orthodox government office which would look to serve the public with a smile.
While I sympathize with those who support this idea, I don’t think this is a realistic option. The political power to effect change not only nationally but also at local levels simply isn’t there. Furthermore, the rules of appointing, let alone firing, appointees to batei din and councils are so byzantine and subject to back-door manipulation that I don’t think a friendly Chief Rabbi can have much influence one way or another. This is to say nothing of all the clerks and employees, who have great power over civilians’ lives in many areas but who are subject to no public scrutiny or examination worthy of the name.
I suspect that, if pressed, some who support the existence of government control over much of Jewish religious life in Israel will argue that yes, the Rabbanut and its affiliates may indeed be hopelessly inefficient. It may even be one big hillul hashem as you claim. But it is a necessary hillul hashem. Without the sprawling network of investigation of Jewish identity, stringent halachic surveillance of Mikvas and legal control over marriage and divorce, Israel will soon be flooded with mamzerim, halachic non-Jews and families that don’t keep family purity properly.
Personally, I don’t believe that this nightmare scenario will come to pass. What do you think?