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Saturday, January 16, 2016 

Chief rabbinate should be dissolved

Isi Leibler is right:
The tensions created by the ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate within Israeli society have ‎extended to the Diaspora and are now undermining relations with the Jewish state.‎

Ironically, this is taking place at a time when many Israelis are returning to their spiritual roots. ‎Although Tel Aviv remains outwardly a hedonistic secular city, the secular Ashkenazi outlook ‎that dominated Israeli society is in decline, and even setting aside haredim, Israelis today have ‎become increasingly more traditionally inclined and religiously observant. ‎

The past decades have witnessed the emergence of observant Jews at all senior levels of ‎society. There has been a dramatic revolution in the Israel Defense Forces with national-‎religious soldiers now occupying senior positions, assuming roles in combat units parallel to ‎what their kibbutz predecessors did in the early years of statehood. There is even a thirst for ‎spiritual values among secular Israelis, accompanied by a major revival of the study of Jewish ‎texts. ‎

Yet simultaneously, there is revulsion and rage at the corruption, extortion and political ‎leverage imposed by powerful haredi political parties and their rabbis.‎

Unfortunately, the ultra-Orthodox rabbis have effectively exploited their political leverage to ‎assume control of the Chief Rabbinate, which, ironically, they themselves have always ‎despised.

Current Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau and his Sephardi counterpart, Chief Rabbi Yitzhak ‎Yosef, represent the antithesis of the Chief Rabbinate created 90 years ago by Rabbi Abraham ‎Isaac Kook, who strove to unite the nation. They stand in sharp contrast to earlier occupants ‎such as Chief Rabbis Yitzhak Herzog and Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel, who were great scholars, ‎passionate Zionists, and always sought to blend Judaism with compassion and worldliness.‎

The current incumbents are narrow-minded bureaucrats completely dominated by the most ‎extreme ultra-Orthodox elements who seek to impose their stringent religious interpretations ‎upon the entire nation.‎

Today these rabbis are creating significant tensions throughout Israeli society by their lack of ‎compassion and the inflexibility in which they administer issues relating to personal status. As a ‎monopoly, they are able to wield their power and ignore the current conditions facing Jews in ‎a modern Jewish state and instead they impose the most rigid interpretations.‎
That's why I think it's high time to challenge this in court, and call for better state laws to end the monopoly. I think that maybe it's best for those who do marry within Israel to request rabbis who aren't Haredi, and also when holding a funeral for late relatives. Some people should write in their wills that they do not want any Haredi rabbi who condones extreme stringency to host a funeral for their passing. And some should probably write up speeches condemning any reprehensible conduct they perform.

There are ways if you know how to find them to make improvements, and the time has come to do so.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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