Israeli blacklist points to growing rift among rabbis

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 July, 2017, 7:37pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 July, 2017, 8:52pm

Israel’s chief rabbinate has compiled a blacklist of overseas rabbis whose authority they refuse to recognise when it comes to certifying the Jewishness of someone who wants to get married in Israel.

The list includes a number of prominent Orthodox rabbis in North America.

Among them are a social activist in New York who has advocated for greater rights for women, a Canadian rabbi who is friendly with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a close colleague of the rabbi who converted Ivanka Trump.

The list, which includes 160 rabbis from 24 countries, points to a deepening rift between overseas Jewish communities and Israeli religious authorities.

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Tensions have already been mounting between the world’s two largest Jewish communities since the Israeli government last month froze plans to create an expanded egalitarian prayer section at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray.

The roll-back of a deal reached last year to open up the holy site to liberal streams of Judaism was seen as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s capitulation to ­pressure by his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners. Those ultra-Orthodox partners also control ­Israel’s chief rabbinate.

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Jews who immigrate to Israel must provide the Interior Ministry with proof of Judaism in the form of a letter from a rabbi. But those who wish to wed in Israel face an additional hurdle.

While the Interior Ministry’s criteria are clear-cut and inclusive, the ultra-Orthodox-dominated chief rabbinate takes a much stricter line. For instance, it does not recognise the validity of Reform or ­Conservative Judaism, which is practised by the vast majority of North American Jews.