160 rabbis, including top US Orthodox leaders, on Israeli Rabbinate ‘blacklist’

Rabbi Avi Weiss during a memorial service on June 17, 2014, outside the UN in New York, for the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped in the West Bank. (AP/John Minchillo)
List of those not recognized to authenticate Jewish identities of immigrants includes Avi Weiss of Riverdale, dozens of Reform and Conservative leaders

By Ben Sales | The Times of Israel

Some 160 rabbis, including several prominent American Orthodox leaders, appear on a list of rabbis whom Israel’s ultra-Orthodox-dominated Chief Rabbinate does not trust to confirm the Jewish identities of immigrants.

Rabbis from 24 countries, including the United States and Canada, are on the list. In addition to Reform and Conservative rabbis, the list includes Orthodox leaders like Avi Weiss, the liberal Orthodox rabbi from the Riverdale section of New York, and Yehoshua Fass, the executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh, a group that encourages and facilitates American immigration to Israel.

The Chief Rabbinate controls all Jewish marriage in Israel, and immigrants who wish to wed there must first prove they are Jewish according to Orthodox law. This proof often comes via a letter from a community rabbi attesting to the immigrant’s Jewish identity. One midlevel bureaucrat at the rabbinate, Rabbi Itamar Tubul, handles every claim.

The publication of the list comes on the heels of a clash between American Jewish leaders and the Chief Rabbinate over how to determine Jewish identity. In June, Israel’s Cabinet advanced a bill that would give the Chief Rabbinate authority over all official Jewish conversions within Israel. Following an outcry from Jewish leaders in America, the bill was shelved for six months.

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