gershon hepner (5 3 38 / leipzig)
abolishing the chief rabbi
Abolishing a rabbi who’s the chief
is surely hutzpah that’s beyond belief,
unless the rabbi is so hutzpadik
that such views come not from a heretic,
but from a most distinguished scholar whom
his colleagues all consider to be frum,
since he knows Hebrew better than Akkadian,
a middle-of-the-road man, a Canadian,
hardly ever thought of as dimwitted,
although he wears a yarmulke that’s knitted,
who thinks the time’s come to abolish
the office, ready, it seems, to demolish
the power that’s been given to the maniacs
who hold it, mainly Lithuaniacs.
When hearing this I say: “Oy vey is mir!
What will they say in Ponovezh and Mir? ”
Inspired by an article in the Canadian Jewish News describing the dangerously heretical views of the distinguished Rashbam scholar, Martin I. Lockshin:
The Conservative rabbinical association has passed a resolution calling for the dissolution of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate as a governmental organization. Instead, the resolution calls on Israel to privatize the Chief Rabbinate and concludes by calling for financial resources to be allocated equitably to the major streams of Judaism. “In general, there’s a sense of the need to move toward a greater separation of synagogue and state, ” said Toronto’s Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl, one of about 300 rabbis and one of about 10 Canadian rabbis to attend last week’s annual Rabbinical Assembly convention in Jerusalem. In a phone interview from Israel last Thursday, Rabbi Frydman-Kohl said that there’s “a sense of alienation in Israel on the part of the vast majority of Israelis, certainly of moderately traditional and, more so, secular Israelis from the chief rabbinate, which is also connected to an alienation from much of traditional Judaism.” Liberal North American rabbis have had a number of squabbles over the years with Israeli religious authorities, who wield state power through their control of several hot-button issues, including marriage and conversion. The rabbinate, which is made up largely of haredi rabbis, has even run afoul of liberal Orthodox rabbis in the United States, who accuse it of taking unnecessarily strict and authoritarian religious positions.
Rabbi Martin Lockshin, a York University Jewish studies professor who has Orthodox smichah, told The CJN that at many points in history, the Israeli Chief Rabbinate was “a wonderful institution that was a source of great inspiration to many Jews.” He said that, from one perspective, the resolution “seems very sad, ” but he said he also understands “the frustration that many people are feeling with the Chief Rabbinate as it is constituted.” Rabbi Lockshin said he believes there has to be “a further separation of synagogue and state in the State of Israel.” “I’d be in favour of civil marriages and divorces, ” he added. “If the Chief Rabbinate is not controlling areas of personal status, it can be a force for intellectual and religious growth for the Jewish people.”
Instead of marrying under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate, Rabbi Frydman-Kohl said, a significant number of Israelis are living together or going abroad to get married. In some cases, couples have a civil marriage abroad and return to Israeli to be married under Masorti (Conservative) auspices, he said. “People are trying in many ways. They want to be Jewish, and they may not be Jewish completely in the traditional way. We need to find a way to make them part of the large majority and find a way that they can marry within Israel, or there will be more problems down the road.”
The Rabbinical Assembly took up more than a dozen resolutions at the convention. Among them was one on marriage and another on conversion. Draft versions, respectively, called for the Israeli government to license rabbis from all branches of Judaism to officiate at weddings and to recognize Masorti conversions performed in Israel. Final versions were not available at press time.
© 2009 Gershon Hepner 2/18/09
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