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Article - Adam Segal

Friday, 14 July 2017 | 20 Tammuz, 5777


Written by Adam Segal

 

So, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, from its ivory tower, sees fit to determine which Rabbis are ‘acceptable’ and which are not.

It would be hilarious if it were not so sad. As the Jewish people are in the midst of watching an attempted re-writing of our history by UNESCO through their denial of our obvious ties to Jerusalem and Hebron, and believe that they somehow have the divine right to decide on ‘truth’, our own Chief Rabbinate no less, has determined that they too are the ‘keeper of the key’ to truth in Judaism.

Let us for a moment, take a step back and examine what it is that qualifies these ‘holy’ people to decide which Rabbis are worthy and which are not. Maybe the best way to do this is to look at them as examples of what they view as ‘acceptable Rabbinical standards’.

In 2016, The Chief Rabbinate of Petach Tikvah allegedly refused to marry a Jewish Ethiopian couple declaring it ‘an order from up high’. They in fact asked the couple to register with the Modern Orthodox Tzohar. Accusations of racism were heard from near and far. Is racism the benchmark?

In 2017, Interior Minister and former head of the Hareidi Orthodox party Shas, submitted legislation that would circumvent a March 2016 Supreme Court ruling that allowed those undergoing private Orthodox conversions in Israel to become citizens under the Law of Return. The Rabbinate felt that Ariyeh Deri was the right person to submit this legislation. Is that because of his criminal record and time in jail for corruption? Maybe!

Then again, whilst Deri was not ‘officially’ representing the chief Rabbinate, maybe it was the fact that both he and former chief Rabbi Metzger, both spent time in Jail for fraud and corruption. Might time behind bars be the yardstick?

It’s possible that the pre-requisite for passing judgement is not about jail time but something else. In 2013, Incumbent Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yitchak Yosef, in an attempt to encourage people to learn more Torah and spend less time watching basketball, reportedly said “Why do you care about whether the ‘kushim’ who get paid in Tel Aviv beat the kushim who get paid in Greece?” Kushim is a Hebrew slur for blacks.” So, is it racist attitudes that qualify a person to judge?

Maybe not; former Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Ovadia Yosef, following hurricane Katrina stated that “Hundreds of thousands remained homeless. Tens of thousands have been killed. All of this because they have no God,” he said, adding that the hurricane was God’s way of punishing President George W. Bush for his support of Israel’s evacuation that year of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. From this it appears that one who believes he has the ability to determine which innocent people are killed in a natural disaster is the qualifying element. Quite amazing!

Then again, in defense of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, maybe it was not this alone that qualified him but also his attitude towards women. In 2007 he said “A woman’s knowledge is only in sewing. Women should find other jobs and make cholent but not deal with matters of Torah.” Maybe it all comes down to accepting that women are in essence, good for cooking only.  Is this the yardstick?

Maybe it was his son, current Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef who set the benchmark in 2016 when he was reported to have said “Who will be the servers? Who will be our assistants? Therefore, we leave them here in the land,” regarding Non- Jews in Israel who don’t accept Judaism’s basic laws for humanity.

Then again, it could be that the standard is what I personally witnessed two weeks ago as I accompanied my daughter Talia to The Rabbinate. I watched as those around me were spoken to flippantly as they asked when they would be seen. One couple had a 9am appointment (the first appointment of the day) and at 9:25, there was still no sign of any Rabbis. At 9:30am, I watched the Rabbis slowly arrive. No doubt, what they had prior was far more important than arriving on time to work and respecting the time of others. Might a total disregard for others be the true measure?

The Chief Rabbinate certainly has interesting standards that they themselves have set. I shudder to think what our future holds if it is these standards of humanity and Halacha that set the benchmark for Rabbinical Leadership.

I can’t say that I know every Rabbi on this ‘blacklist’. I can say that The Chief Rabbinate is in no way qualified to determine who ‘makes the cut’ and who doesn’t. The Rabbinate should not and must not be about power, money or influence. It must be about compassion, humanity and deep care and love for every person.

I had the privilege of working with Rabbi Genende for some twenty years, both at Caulfield Shule and Mount Scopus College. He is a man of integrity, compassion and truth and a person deeply committed to Judaism, Halacha and Jewish continuity.

My question is, do those Rabbis who seek power and money, who possess attitudes that portray them as superior to others based on color or gender, who believe that their interpretation of Jewish law overrides the law of the land, make the cut?