You’re Jewish and so is your fiancee? You want to get married in Israel? You have your parents ketubot (Orthodox) and other documents to prove your Jewishness, including letters from your local Orthodox rabbi. No problem, right? Wrong. Haredi theocracy is here to show you a tremendous disservice:
“I had problems with the Rabbinate, even though I brought a lot of information about my mother, who is an eighth-generation Jerusalemite, and my grandfather, who is listed in the Encyclopedia of the Yishuv,” Ronit Sagron, a New York-born Israeli, said of her recent encounter with the marriage registrar.
“I even brought them my mother’s report card from Bet Sefer Evelina de Rothschild [an Orthodox girls’ school] and other papers of my mother from the Mandate period, a family tree and photos,” she related. “After a week of going to the Rabbinate every single day, my Orthodox rabbi cousin finally had to send a fax vouching for me!”
When Americans Aaron Greenberg and Jennifer Zeichner set their wedding date, they went to the rabbinate months ahead of time — only to be told to come back in three months due to an ongoing strike. When they returned, the couple, both born Jews, brought letters from their Orthodox rabbis in America and ketubot from their mother or maternal grandmother.
Two weeks before their wedding, the Rabbinate denied their request for permission to marry, citing insufficient documentation. “They didn’t suggest any ways for us to rectify the situation,” Aaron stressed.
Ultimately, Rabbi Seth Farber, who heads a group that helps Jews through the Rabbinate’s process, “procured letters from other rabbis attesting to the fact that our rabbis are really Orthodox rabbis,” related Greenberg. “This was a week before the wedding. All of our relatives were flying in.”
The Rabbinate approved the Greenbergs’ upcoming marriage the day before the wedding. Rabbi Farber, whose group, ITIM has helped hundreds of Israelis and foreigners persuade the Rabbinate to accept their documentation, said that several halachically Jewish couples have recently turned to ITIM after encountering “unprecedented difficulties.”
Israeli law allows only religious marriages to be performed in Israel. So, for Jews marrying in Israel, rabbinic recognition is crucial.
The Rabbinate’s longstanding reputation for daunting bureaucracy is one reason thousands of halachically Jewish Israelis opt for a civil ceremony in nearby Cyprus, or elsewhere. These marriages are recognized by the Interior Ministry, but not the Rabbinate.
But now, “Things are becoming more and more difficult,” said a synagogue rabbi in Jerusalem who did not want his name published because he deals regularly with the Rabbinate.
These people are thugs. Either disband the Rabbinut or force major reform.
The remaining section of this piece deals with the Rabbinut’s stricter standards on conversion, standards that now do not recognize conversions done by RCA members. It contains two quotes worth remembering:
1. Rabbi Yigal Krispel, the Rabbinut’s conversion czar: “When you’re dealing with conversion, you’re dealing with extremely complex halachic issues,” he said. “Therefore, we want to make sure the rabbi involved in a conversion is also acknowledged in that field specifically.”
Rabbi Krispel said it had become apparent to him that not everyone who performs a conversion was qualified to do so.
“Only dayanim” — Judaic law judges who serve on religious courts — are permitted to do this,” he told The Jewish Week.
2. Rabbi Basil Herring, the appropriately-named fish who heads the RCA: “This is part of a policy or effort on the part of the rabbinic leadership under Rabbi Amar to create standards,” he said. “I don’t know if they are going about it right, or how they are implementing the policy, but it is not an attack on Modern Orthodoxy or American Orthodoxy, and it does not represent the haredization of the rabbinate. We’re not throwing thunderbolts at each other.”
Unlike gittin (religious divorces), and despite Rabbi Krispel’s strange assertion, conversion is not a particularly complicated halakhic procedure. Is there a need to eliminate fraud from the process? Yes. Rabbis exist who will convert almost anyone for the right amount of money. But the Rabbinut is refusing to recognize conversions done by hundreds of rabbis who are not suspect in this and who have endorsement from the RCA. How does the RCA react to this slap in the face from the haredi-controlled Rabbinut? With subservience and groveling. Once again, Modern Orthodoxy fails to stand up for actual Modern Orthodox Jews.