Sunday, June 24, 2012


Recently Israel’s Attorney General decided that Reform and Conservative Rabbis should receive state salaries as ‘community leaders”  who would not be involved in rendering Halachic-Jewish Law decision. Sephardic Chief  Rabbi, the Rishon L’Zion, Shlomo Amar was adamant in his opposition.

Rav Amar’s commentswere denounced as divisive by the national leadership of  Federation as well as  the leadership of the Rabbinical Assembly.

In the interest of full disclosure this writer is ordained as a Rav by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and even though I agree with Rav Amar on the basis of religion. However, it as an attorney that I truly agree with the Rishon L’Zion .  The Chief Rabbi’s opposition against the recognition on any level of non-orthodox  Jewish clergy by the State of Israel begins a slippery slope fraught with unintended consequences.

Under principles of democracy and civil rights how does Reform or conservative enjoy more legitimacy than Karaites,  Ethiopian Commandment Keepers (not to be confused with real Ethiopian Jews) or Messianic Jews ET. Al?  Indeed as a teenager I recall a book that argued the present day Reform movement was part of a tradition of dissent beginning with the Sadducees and continuing through the generations including the Karaites, Shabbtai Zvi  etc . . .  Once notions of equality and democracy are applied over time what is included within the ambit of a principle tends to expand. It is doubtful that the civil rights activists that championed racial equality in 1960 envisioned they were opening the doors for  the disabled or sexual orientation? Most likely not however once the great historic forms of prejudice race and gender were addressed other groups previously viewed as different  eventually began to be seen as fitting the paradigm of discrimination deserving of the law’s protection.

Certainly I do not endorse discrimination against the disabled or anyone else for that matter. However, even good ideas need reasonable limitations. Under Israeli law religion has official status. One’s faith is connected to matters of personal status. Consequently being Jewish and Judaism cannot be loosely defined concepts. The absence of a common denominator leads only to confusion diluting Judaism’s official status particularly regarding marriages, divorces, Kashruth certification and conversion etc . . . However by recognizing a single standard rabbinate this is pretty much avoided. Otherwise the possibility is some time in the future the Chief Rabbi for the State of Israel would be commenting about how her favorite Yom Kippur morning breakfast is bacon & eggs just like her Jewish father. Extreme true but too far fetched? Honestly can one really be dismissive of this worst case scenario?

Rav Amar is so right to protest the Attorney General’s order is principled and must be supported. Rav Amar’s position is not in the least way divisive but actually a true cal for Jewish unity.

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