What I Learned from Dubi’s Arrest

Before I went to Israel for my year of study at Machon Schechter, my colleague, Rabbi Eytan Hammerman, told me “You’ve got to meet Dubi (Dov) Hiyun.” I looked back at him incredulously. Who was this guy whose name means teddy bear and why did I have to meet him? I was told that he was someone who would stand out, that I’d know him when I saw him.

Sure enough Dubi, at that time an Israeli student at Machon Schechter, stood out to me. He was in my Sadna seminar on writing teshuvot with Rabbi David Golinkin. During the course it felt to me like his brain was on fire, with him asking halachic questions and bringing up points I never would have considered. Dubi truly struck me as one of a kind.

I followed Dubi’s career as he went to Kehillat Moriah in Haifa. I was saddened to learn of the fire that devastated his kehilla and gave money towards its rebuilding. I was proud to read of his accomplishments in strengthening that kehilla. I knew from my year with him in school that Dubi was a person of great integrity who took halacha seriously.

I was therefore shocked when I read about Dubi’s arrest and detainment on Thursday July 19 at 5:30 am. What humiliation to take somone from their home and family at the crack of dawn and treat him as a criminal. What was Dubi’s crime, you may ask? Performing a wedding in Israel as a Masorti (Conservative) rabbi. One article says he married a man who was a mamzer (the byproduct of an illegitimate relationship) without substantiating that claim. Another states that he married a woman who was psulat hitun (ineligible for marriage) without substantiation. It is also too coincidental in my mind that Dubi was arrested on the day he was supposed to speak at the home of President Reuven Rivlin for a pre-Tisha B’Av program.

The irony in all this is that the one place where a Conservative rabbi (or Orthodox rabbi not approved by the Chief Rabbinate) cannot marry two Jews is in the Land of Israel. It doesn’t matter if the strictest of the halacha is followed, with two male, shomer Shabbos witnesses for the Ketubah and inspecting the rings. It also doesn’t matter how much Talmud or Shutim the rabbi knows. All that matters is that the rabbi is connected to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. This is why I wrote last year about the need to abolish the Chief Rabbinate. If Israel wants to be a country for all Jews, it needs to be one where divergence in affiliation is respected, rather than just the frummest common denominator being accepted.

Dubi has announced that he will run for Haifa’s city council, and if I lived in Haifa I’d vote for him. He’s a man of great integrity and commitment to halacha. It’s a Shonda that he was treated as a criminal for affirming the love of two Jews creating a household together. As Dubi said, Israel has lost its way; the way to fix this is not to abdicate but to work to change Israel from within. I applaud Dubi and the other leaders of the Masorti and Reform movements in Israel who are doing just that.

About the Author
Rabbi Ben Herman joined the Jericho Jewish Center in 2014 soon after marrying his wife Karina. He values personally engaging with each individual he meets and hearing their story. Karina and he are the parents of a beautiful 1-year-old girl named Ariela Shira.
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