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Israeli chief rabbi ‘stunned’ by alleged blacklist of 160 diaspora rabbis

(Jewish Link of New Jersey/ At a time of heightened tension between diaspora Jewry and the state of Israel over religious issues, the Israeli Chief Rabbinate sought to distance itself from a controversial alleged “blacklist” of 160 diaspora rabbis.

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau’s office this week said Lau is “stunned” by the purported blacklist, which includes prominent American and Canadian Orthodox leaders. The diaspora rabbis were reported as having been banned by the Chief Rabbinate from performing conversions and/or confirming the Jewish status of immigrants. But both the list and its implications were mischaracterized, sources said.

The Jewish Link of New Jersey obtained a letter from Rabbi Moshe Dagan, the Chief Rabbinate’s director-general, to Rabbi Reuven Tradburks, the Rabbinical Council of America’s (RCA) representative in Israel, which states, “The list that was released is not ‘a list of rabbis who are not recognized or authorized.’ Rather, it is a list of rabbis who received a response of ‘not recognized’ for some reason or other by the Division of Personal Status and Conversion of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel for whatever documents concerning marriage they had presented.” RCA Executive Vice President Rabbi Mark Dratch confirmed the correspondence between his organization and the Chief Rabbinate.

Rabbi Gil Student, editor-in-chief of the Torah Musings website, called the alleged blacklist “a list of rejections without the necessary information to draw meaningful conclusions.”

“[The list] doesn’t say why [diaspora rabbis’] letters were rejected,” he said. “Was it because the letter lacked a date stamp, or because the signature didn’t match the letterhead or some other bureaucratic reason? No information.”

Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder of the Nefesh B’Nefesh aliyah agency, found his name on the “blacklist.” But Lau met with him July 11 to address the issue and reject any rumors regarding Fass’s status. “I regret that this incident may have called your reputation into question. The Chief Rabbinate recognizes and appreciates you as a rabbi and all that you have done for the Jewish people,” Lau told Fass.

After the meeting, Fass said, “The Rabbinate should serve as a shining example of unity and connectivity within Judaism and promote its positive values in order to bridge any divides and prevent sinat chinam (baseless hatred).” Fass expressed hope that a healing process would develop between the Chief Rabbinate and diaspora rabbis.

The alleged blacklist of Orthodox rabbis comes amid tension between Israel and America’s Reform and Conservative Jewish movements, in relation to the issues of conversion and egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall. The Israeli cabinet had advanced a bill seeking to consolidate all conversions to Judaism within Israel under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate, but in late June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a deal to delay the bill by six months while a government-appointed committee examines the issue.

CAP: Rabbi Yehoshua Fass (left), co-founder of the Nefesh B’Nefesh aliyah agency, meets with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau after Fass had found his name on an alleged Chief Rabbinate “blacklist” of diaspora rabbis.

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