Israel News for July 14, 2016

Rabbinic Court Rules
The Supreme Rabbinic Court of the Chief Rabbinate issued a ruling in the much publicized case of an American immigrant woman who was converted to Judaism by Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, a prominent Modern Orthodox rabbi in the US. When the woman tried to register for her upcoming marriage in the Petach Tikva rabbinate, the local rabbinic court ruled that her conversion was invalid, since Rabbi Lookstein was not on the list of rabbis approved by the Chief Rabbinate to perform conversions.

The case was appealed to the Supreme Rabbinic Court, which upheld the ruling of the lower court and ordered the woman to proclaim her acceptance of the Mitzvoth (commandments). This acceptance would serve as a backup conversion, which is done when the validity of the initial conversion is thought to be questionable. The woman at first refused to make the declaration, but eventually relented in the interest of being allowed to register for her marriage.

The court’s ruling is viewed by many as an attack on all of the conversions of Rabbi Lookstein. But that’s not so clear. The Chief Rabbis praised the courts ruling while also confirming that Rabbi Lookstein’s conversions are absolutely “kosher”. The court also said that their ruling has no bearing on any other of the rabbis conversions.

The entire question came down to whether R. Lookstein was on an approved list of rabbis or not. But the court couldn’t just refer to the official list, because there really isn’t one master list. There apparently are several versions of the list, depending on who you ask for a judgment.

So it seems as though, in the absence of a list, the court had no hard evidence to either confirm or deny R. Lookstein’s conversion. So they took what they considered to be the safe route and made the woman convert again, sort of (she did not have to immerse in a mikvah, which is a primary requirement for conversion, although they did say that the woman’s standard pre-wedding immersion will also serve the purpose of acting as a conversion immersion).

Since the Chief Rabbis have now publicly confirmed that R. Lookstein is on the approved list, there should be no further issues regarding his conversions in Israel. We hope.

However, the fact that the judges of the court didn’t rely on the approval of the Chief Rabbis is disturbing and confusing. Were they trying to make a point of displaying their judicial independence?

Does this mean that other rabbinical courts can decide to deny conversions by rabbis even though those rabbis are approved by the Chief Rabbinate?

The only way to assure that something like this doesn’t happen in the future is for the Chief Rabbinate to publish one official list of approved rabbis and mandate that all rabbinical courts and marriage registrars abide by it.

And btw, shame on all the “journalists” who keep referring to Ivanka Trump in their headlines of how the Israeli Rabbinate is nullifying her conversion. It’s just not true. They’re just trying to get clicks (they call it click bait). One ruling by three judges doesn’t change or effect anything beyond the specific case they’re ruling on.

Another Ruling
Since we’re on the topic, the Supreme Rabbinical Court has handed down a five year prison sentence to man who refuses to give his wife a Get (Jewish divorce document). The court gave the husband 10 days to reconsider before heading to prison.

Yup, the rabbinical court has the power to send people to prison in cases of Get refusal.

For further reading click here.

IDF Chief Rabbi
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot confirmed yesterday that Rabbi Col. Eyal Karim will be appointed as the Chief Rabbi of the IDF, despite the public controversy surrounding some of the rabbi’s past statements, including permitting soldiers to disobey orders they consider to be contrary to Torah and prohibiting women from serving in the IDF.

A statement by the Chief of Staff’s office said, “Col. Karim made clarified during the conversation on all the matters that have come up in recent days, and he clarified beyond any doubt that he and all IDF soldiers are completely subject to IDF orders and the IDF Code of Ethics. The rabbi promised that he personally and the rabbinate headed by him will respect every single person, regardless of religion, sex and sexual preference, and because he sees the IDF as an army of the people absorbing of its recruits, no matter who they are. The chief of staff spoke with Col. Karim about the chief rabbinate’s tasks and how he envisages the rabbinate under his command, and he felt that he and the rabbi see eye to eye on these issues.”

Last night Karim publicized a letter to all IDF soldiers. In it, he stated, “It is inconceivable that any soldier or commander would act contrary to orders.” He also wrote, “I understand the diversity and variety that exists amongst IDF soldiers and the important contribution that every soldier makes without regard to their sexual orientation. We will continue being everybody’s rabbinate.”

For further reading click here.

El Al Pilots
El Al pilots have been involved in legal battles with management, demanding improvements in working conditions. Management is claiming that the average salary of an El AL pilot is high enough to compensate for any hardships. The average salary of a pilot is currently around 96,000 shekels per month. Not too bad. But I guess it’s all relative. Do you want the pilot on your flight to be disgruntled?

For further reading click here.