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October 18, 2013 9:30 am

How Dare Israel’s Rabbinate Dictate to American Orthodox Jews

avatar by Ronn Torossian

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Chief Rabbi, David Lau. Photo: Wikipedia.

Recent media reports indicate that at least ten American Modern Orthodox rabbis are no longer allowed by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate to recognize the Jewish status of a couple. Amongst the rabbis whose word is no longer deemed acceptable is Rabbi Avi Weiss, one of the foremost American Zionist Orthodox rabbis.

It is tremendously disrespectful for the Israeli Rabbinate to tell American Jews which Orthodox rabbis are allowed to vouch for their Jewishness. As a Beit Din is not halachically required to determine Jewishness, this is Israel dictating to American Orthodox Jews which shuls they deem “kosher.” How dare they.

Rabbi Avi Weiss has immense love for Am Israel (the Jewish people), and is one of the foremost leaders of the Zionist Orthodox community. He has been on the front-line of so many important Jewish issues for so many years. He, and the others, have smicha (ordination) from Orthodox yeshivas and run communal synagogues. The Israeli Chief Rabbinate dares to tell congregants their rabbis can’t write a letter affirming they are Jewish? Questioning Orthodox rabbis and their congregants? Shameful. A gross disservice to klal (the community of) Israel.

Can anyone in their right mind believe that this will draw anyone at all closer to Judaism?  This will only increase the numbers of American Jews who do not belong to a synagogue (which is already at a staggering 66 percent). What a flawed system the Chief Rabbinate creates and runs. (Does anyone doubt that plenty of corrupt rabbis will write any letter needed?)

As Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of “Ohev Sholom – The National Synagogue” in Washington, DC recently said, “The recent actions of the State of Israel on this matter actually undermine the rabbinate of Rabbi Weiss and represent an intrusion of personal Israeli politics into the daily life of the American Jewish community. The State of Israel in effect is thereby encouraging people to attend the synagogues of certain rabbis and not others.”

There is nothing about this that is kosher.

Ronn Torossian is a proud New York Jew.

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  • Eric Leibman

    Good for the Chief Rabbinate for putting Avi Weiss in his place.

  • Eric Leibman

    Avi Weiss. Such a putz. Three cheers for the Chief Rabbinate putting him in his place.

  • Richard S.

    Thank you Mr. Torossian for this article. My teenage son and I are reform Jews and recently visited a small Orthodox shul during a vacation. It was a hot day with low attendance, but with us being there was a minion. Or was there? My son’s mom converted to Judaism by a reform rabbi. So my son talked to me quietly, “Dad, do they even think I am Jewish?” Before I could answer, the Orthodox rabbi asked my son if wanted to put on tefillin. I explained he never did so, yet the rabbi was glad to help show him. There were no tribunals over our heritage or authenticity. I’m sure there are people who would say we are some kind of horrible people. We were two Jews just trying to pray in a shul. And by the way, if Orthodox are fighting Orthodox, that’s nothing new.

    But where I live (in Texas), there is at least one preacher on the radio who claims all Ashkenazi are not Jews at all. He quotes crazy historians who say the Ashkenazi are descended from the Khazars and have no connection to the Jews from Yisrael. These nut jobs say they are Christians but sound very un-Christian to me. When they hear we are fighting amongst ourselves over who is this and that, we will just be fueling their spread of hatred for all Jews.

  • Chaim F

    This article betrays a lack of understanding about the conversion situation in Israel and around the world. The Rabbinate is attempting to standardize conversions, worldwide. More: it’s attempting to eliminate invalid conversions. Yes, orthodox Rabbis have been and can be responsible for invalid conversions. They accept insincere prospects (who admit to their insincerity). Some well-meaning Rabbis are poorly organized and non-Jews are often rubber-stamped. One final point: Rabbi Avi Weiss is not accepted by much of the orthodox world, not just the Haredim, as an orthodox Rabbi. If I were a gabbai, I wouldn’t give an aliyah to someone who converted thru Weiss.

    • Yossi S.

      While Avi Weiss’ fingernail is more holy than you, nevertheless you show no Halachic understanding at all. This is not about conversions. This is about recognizing Jews as Jews (for which according to Halacha no firm notes are needed.) These were not converts.

      I am a gabbay at a Orthodox shul, and wouldnt give you and your fellow Loshon Hara friends an aliyah.



        NOT IN AMERICA !!!

  • Joseph Abeles

    The Israeli Rabbanut seems to be judging who is to be considered Jewish in Israel, not (per se) in the United States. I find the premise of Ronn Torossian’s complaint to be flawed.

  • Joel

    Zionist aren’t real jews anyway so none of them count