Hail to the Chief….. But Not to the Chief Rabbi

Whenever the American presidents arrive at special ceremonies they are always greeted by the playing of the hymn to the presidents… Hail to the Chief.

I would never sing a hailing song to our Chief Rabbi David Lau whose recent comments to MK Naftali Bennett were anti-Jewish and insulting.

During his recent trip to the USA, Bennett visited a Solomon Schechter school affiliated with the Conservative movement of American Jewry. For this, he was roundly lambasted by Chief Rabbi Lau who does not recognize any Jew who does not observe Orthodox practice.

Lau is a disgrace to the title of Chief Rabbi. He defames the majority of the Jews of the world who do not observe his brand of Judaism. He should take lessons from the late great Rabbi Kook, our first Chief Rabbi, who visited the socialist non-observant kibbutzim, blessed them, performed their marriages and hailed them as “bonai Yisrael”, the builders of Israel.

Lau should follow in the footsteps of the late Chief Rabbi Herzog who had been Chief Rabbi in Ireland and was a friend of Catholic Irish revolutionaries demanding independence from British oppressive rule and who recognized a Jew as a Jew without the label of affiliation. Lau should uphold the tribute of the late Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren who gave the resounding blast of the shofar in 1967 at the kotel upon the liberation of Jerusalem.

These Rabbis were great spiritual leaders and examples of tolerance for all our people.

In the 1990’s I attended sessions of the rabbinical groups around the world sponsored by Bonds of Israel. Chief Rabbi Lau’s father was often a featured speaker. He shook hands with Conservative and Reform Rabbis from several countries and welcomed them to Israel.

David Lau’s late uncle, Naftali Lavie, traveled frequently to the United States and was a paid speaker in many Conservative and Reform synagogues. For each lecture, he was paid several thousand dollars. Conservative dollars. Reform dollars. He had no prejudice against fellow Jews of any manner of religious or non-religious observance.

Chief Rabbi Lau would be advised to take a page from the history of his family and learn to respect any Jew who is proud to be a Jew.

Is it any wonder that 82 percent of our Jewish population in Israel is non-observant? That most Israeli Jews spend Yom Kippur at beaches and on the seashore rather than in the synagogues? There is a majority of our Jewish population which despises the office of Chief Rabbi, often corrupt and always intolerant.

It once happened that a Chief Rabbi of my city, newly appointed, visited in our synagogue. When the prayer for the State of Israel was recited and the congregation stood to join in the recitation, that rabbi remained seated. Once, in a discussion with a few congregants, someone referred to the Israeli flag. The Chief Rabbi responded in anger: “ma zeh ha degel? Zeh rak smartut” What is the flag? It’s only a rag.

Hearing that remark, several congregants took the non-Zionist Chief Rabbi by the arms and escorted him out of the synagogue telling him he would not be allowed to enter again until he apologized for his offensive remark.

We have long histories with our rabbis in Israel, some positive and too many sadly negative. Several of our rabbis who can only be Orthodox in Israel have been guilty of embezzlement, fraud, sexual misconduct with women and sexual abuse of young yeshiva students. They are not the spiritual role models for religious leaders which we have the right to expect.

If Chief Rabbi David Lau wants to be respected by the people of Israel, he owes a sincere apology to MK Naftali Bennett. V’im lo achshav, aimatai? And if not now, when? Meanwhile, he is one Chief who does not deserve to be hailed.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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