Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Chief Rabbinate? It's un-American

Of the many things that differ between Israel and the United States, none is more glaring than the maintenance of a state supported religious hierarchy, the Chief Rabbinate.

Can you imagine a debate in Congress over who can be called a Christian, a Jew or Muslim? Can you imagine anyone having to be declared a legitimate member of a religious group before being allowed to become a U.S. citizen?

The founding fathers made sure that would never happen. Thank goodness. But "the only democracy in the Middle East" engages in such nonsense.

To let you read how far this goes, I'll excerpt from an article that appeared in the Jerusalem Post, What are We Celebrating? a critique of the Chief Rabbinate. If you feel you are reading a description of something that has no place in government, I understand the feeling! But this is the country that has "no daylight" between it and the U.S. according to our vice-president Joe Biden.

Last Tuesday, the Knesset celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Chief
Rabbinate, as if the institution was a positive factor in Israeli life...

Confronted with the urgent problem of the massive non-Jewish immigration
from the former Soviet Union, in which over 300,000 non-Jews became
Israeli citizens, the Rabbinate did nothing to encourage conversion or
even to make it a viable option.

When presented with a possible solution suggested by the Neeman
Commission involving the creation of a joint institute for the study of
Judaism which would lead to conversion under the Chief Rabbinate’s
auspices, the Chief Rabbinate responded with a vicious attack on the
Conservative and Reform movements – which bordered on the libelous – and
refused to cooperate with it...

Rivlin dismissed the possibility of replacing the Chief Rabbinate with
“another one, Reform or Conservative – a move that could compromise the
unity of the Jewish people” and praised halacha [Jewish law] which, he
opined, “we must safeguard.”

It appears that Rivlin continues the tradition of those secular leaders
of Israel who do not go to a synagogue, but want the synagogue they do
not attend to be Orthodox.

RIVLIN ALSO warned against what he called the “privatization of
conversion.” What exactly is the Knesset speaker talking about? Does he
not know that, currently, there are conversions in Israel and throughout
the world conducted by Conservative and Reform rabbis that are
recognized by the State of Israel? Does he not know that even if Israel
were not to recognize them, they would continue to be performed? Is he
totally unaware that, like it or not, the Jewish world is pluralistic?
Does he not know that there are large sections of the Jewish world – the
ultra-Orthodox (haredim) for example – who do not even accept the
conversions of the Chief Rabbinate?

...Even the Orthodox in America are appalled by the efforts of the
Rabbinate to attain total hegemony over conversion throughout the world
and to be the sole authority deciding which American rabbis can convert
and which cannot.

...The celebration of the Chief Rabbinate is a celebration of a backward
march, one in which Israel becomes more like a religious autocracy than
a modern, democratic state. It is a march into darkness which leads not
to Jewish unity but to a situation in which Israel finds itself on one
side and the rest of the Jewish world on the other; in which any support
of Israel by American Jewry would not be because of Israel’s attitude
toward religion, but in spite of it.

It sounds like something from extremist Islam, or Christian fundamentalism at it's worst - the religious dictating to the rest of society. Sad to say, the religious in Israel have been on the ascendant for some time and make up a good portion of the settlers, living on land that God has given them.

What does the United States have in common with this? Nothing, no more than it shares the ideas of religion in government of Iran or Saudi Arabia.

Most outrageous of all, this Chief Rabbinate is the organization that determines who is a Jew and, as such, who is entitled to take away the land of the Palestinians! Do you begin to understand the view the Palestinians would have as they see their homes demolished and their fields bulldozed for settlement expansion? Wouldn't you be upset?

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