Politics above Torah: Chief Rabbinate’s attack on American Orthodox rabbis

Rabbi Avi Weiss is one of the most influential, caring and devoted Orthodox Jewish leaders in America of this generation.  Despite it, The Israeli Chief Rabbinate has decided that Rabbi Avi Weiss is no longer able to testify to ones’ Jewishness. Their decision to overturn his 40 year history of serving as a witness in Israel is morally bankrupt, and disgraceful.

Numerous other American Orthodox Rabbis have also been rendered worthless by the State of Israel in this decision – inappropriate meddling in the American Orthodox community. The Orthodox Rabbis other than Rabbi Avi Weiss who aren’t recognized by Israel have not revealed their names. They haven’t revealed their names (as Weiss did voluntarily) because they are concerned for their jobs. They are worried that they may be fired by the boards who govern their synagogues. Hence: The Chief Rabbinate’s decision to meddle in the American Jewish orthodox debate will lead synagogues to get their rabbis cleared by the RCA, with whom the Chief Rabbinate claims to have collaborated. (POWER)

The Chief Rabbinate statement criticizes “Weiss’ halachic opinions – reflected in different incidents and circumstances which cast doubt on the level of his commitment to the customary and acceptable Jewish Halacha.” How is “customary Halacha” the same as custom? Customs are not laws. Will Carlebach Rabbis be next, or Breslov Rabbi Nachman types for their different observance of customs?

Unlike the Chief Rabbinate’s supposed RCA Rabbis who remained anonymous,“six Rabbis who have been ordained by Yeshiva University and now serve as rabbis in Orthodox synagogues throughout the United States” wrote an open letter to the Chief Rabbinate stating: “We fear that your policy change is more reflective of rabbinic politics in America and the customs of individual communities and not at all reflective of halakhah and the Shulchan Arukh. You are placing politics above Torah and inserting politics into the lives of innocent people. On the basis of second hand information (from unidentified people) you have overturned a policy of accepting Rabbi Weiss’ testimony, a policy that has been in place for over forty years! We feel that your decision was one-hundred-percent wrong. It was also reckless and not based upon sufficient due diligence and careful reasoning.”

Rabbi Marc Angel, a former president of the RCA issued a statement  “Rabbi Avi Weiss has devoted his life to teaching and practicing Torah and mitzvoth. He has brought many Jews to Torah; he has inspired many Jews to take the Torah’s teachings seriously and respectfully. He has sacrificed so much for the Jewish people that it is difficult to think of any other Orthodox rabbi in America who has fought so long and so hard for Jewish rights, for Jewish honor, for the State of Israel, for oppressed Jews everywhere. I believe that his critics are primarily motivated by their fear of Rabbi Weiss’s dramatic success and influence. He clearly fosters a kind of Orthodoxy that is not Hareidi, not “yeshivish”, and not authoritarian. He envisions an “open Orthodoxy” where people are encouraged to think, to ask, and to grow in their Torah lives. He is opposed by those who fear his strong stand in favor of ordaining Orthodox women as rabbis.”

Angel continues: “He is opposed by those who dislike his cooperation with non-Orthodox Jews, including non-Orthodox rabbis. He is opposed by the “establishment” at YU who resent that he started his own Yeshiva/rabbinical school. His opponents do their best to marginalize him from Orthodoxy, even though he is proudly and totally within the Orthodox camp. They are afraid of change, of confronting new realities in new ways; Rabbi Weiss tries to deal with changing realities within the framework of halakha; but he does so with an open mind and with a desire to keep the Torah way of life as a living organism, not as a frozen fossil. Since people constantly fear “the slippery slope” they fear anyone who suggests changes in the status quo even when these changes are warranted within the framework of halakha. Any rabbanim who disqualify Rabbi Weiss as an Orthodox rabbi are committing a terrible sin against Rabbi Weiss and against halakha. They are bowing to political pressure, personal antagonisms. Although they may cloak their opposition as being leShem Shamayim, it is precisely the opposite: it is a Hillul Shem Shamayim.

The Chief Rabbinate’s decision is an attack on American Orthodox Jews – and represents inappropriate meddling in the American Jewish community.

As Rabbi Avi Weiss said in an earlier op-ed on mesorah, “The time has come to breathe life into the words of Rav Kook he’yashan yit’hadesh ve-he’hadash yitkadesh – “the old will become new, and the new will become holy.”

There is no place for a Jewish Vatican, and this decision is bad for the Jewish people.

P.S.: After this piece was published this piece, the RCA issued a statement saying “Recent assertions that the Rabbinical Council of America advised the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to reject the testimony of RCA member Rabbi Avi Weiss are categorically untrue. The RCA regrets that the discussion concerning the reliability of American rabbis for technical matters under the aegis of the Chief Rabbinate has been used to promote broader issues relating to the contours of American Orthodoxy and its limits. The RCA believes that there are better places and ways to work through these issues.

Since its inception, the RCA has cherished its relationship with the Chief Rabbinate and has been working closely with it in recent months to create a new protocol. This protocol will enable Jewish status letters to be written by its member rabbis and be endorsed in the United States, where the RCA is better informed and positioned to resolve matters in ways that will avoid the problems and embarrassments of these past weeks.”

Basically, I believe a few RCA affiliated Rabbis spoke about Weiss’ and other RCA Rabbis – and Israel doesn’t accept them. Makes it even more clear that there is no transparency, and this is a political powerplay.

About the Author
Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President & Chief Executive Officer of 5WPR. Headquartered in New York City, the firm is one of the 25 largest independent public relations firms in the United States. 5WPR has been named “PR Agency of the Year” by the American Business Awards; and Ronn Torossian is the winner of the Silver Stevie Communications, Investor Relations, and PR Executive of the Year of the Year Award by the American Business Awards. Ronn’s book, “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations,” received rave reviews. He is a member of the prestigious Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and is an active board member of a number of non-profit organizations. Ronn Torossian is a frequently sought after communications expert, often appearing on FOX News, CNBC, Huffington Post, Time Magazine, and other major media outlets. He resides on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with his family. Email: rtorossian@5wpr.com Facebook: Ronn's Facebook Twitter: Ronn's Twitter Page
Related Topics
Related Posts