Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Chief Rabbinate Has Run Its Course -- OpEd by Rosh Yeshivat Maale Gilboa Rabbi Yehuda Gilad

UPDATE UPDATE!!

The piece was posted in The Jewish Week.

In the wake of a decision of a committee of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate to review the status of those converted to Judaism by the Israeli Army's conversion program, Rabbi Yehuda Gilad (Rosh Yeshiva at Maale Gilboa) wrote an oped piece on ynet claiming that the Rabbinate has run its course (literally come to the end of its road/path).  Today I spent a lot of time translating the piece into English.  Google gave me a good start but I needed to work a lot to polish it.

Here is a linear style (if I loose my job at YMG, Metzudah publishing may be an alternative ;-)) translation followed by just the English.  I hope to publish the English version in some English papers and on our English Maale Gilboa website. (I am open to hearing grammatical corrections as well as suggestions to improve the translation as well)

If there is to remain any meaning to the terms state Rabbinate and religious Zionism, then the recent decision casting aspersions on IDF conversions, should be "last straw" in our relationship with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.





As a religious Zionist who believes that Israel is the beginning of our redemption, it is not easy for me to come to terms with this realization, but it seems to me that that the time has come to say honestly, sincerely, and painfully, that the Chief Rabbinate as it stands today has run its course.

 The Rabbinate’s resolution, besides transgressing the biblical prohibition of oppressing converts, (reason enough to reject it), clearly demonstrates its complete abnegation of responsibility to Clal Yisrael and the Jewish character of the state, and preference for a sectarian approach that sees reality through an ultra-orthodox lens .We have reached an absurd situation in which the state’s own Rabbinate, bowing to the Chareidi position, is endangering the past achievements and future potential of Israel.





 The high degrees of assimilation of the Jewish people in exile means that Am Yisrael is losing thousands of Jews each year. The State of Israel was until recent decades the only place in the world where assimilation was nearly non-existent. Marriage between Jews and Gentiles living in Israel, Arabs and Druze, etc. are rare, and Israel was the only place that guaranteed the demographic future of the Jewish people.



As is well known, in the last decade, things have changed. The large immigration from the former USSR included hundreds of thousands of descendants of Jews who themselves are not Jewish according to halachah. These wonderful people have in an impressive fashion integrated into the life of the state – into the army, the economy, and into society in general. The stage that should complete the integration for many of them into a normative Jewish life in the state of Israel is marriage with Israeli Jews.


Our people has never in our history faced a challenge like this one before.  This is the time to engage in a broad national campaign, to encourage halachic conversion of large segments of this population. This should be a watershed moment for a state Rabbinate that has the considerations of the entire Jewish people before its eyes.


It must be stated clearly; there are only two options: One is a sweeping effort towards creating an halachic, friendly, and welcoming conversion process based on the large body of lenient opinions articulated in the halachic corpus over generations, that would allow acceptance of many of these immigrants into the Jewish people. The alternative is an unyielding adherence to the most stringent positions in halachah, according to which one may not accept conversions of these immigrants, even at the price of creating thousands of mixed marriages between Jews and Gentiles.


There is a known and accepted principle in the world of Jewish law that under pressing circumstances, one may rely upon a minority opinion. It seems that there could be no greater pressing circumstance or emergency than the current situation! Moreover, there is no need to rely on isolated or obscure opinions but rather there is ample and prevalent precedent in Jewish law for a more permissive approach.


Ultra-Orthodox who adopt the strict approach are apparently unconcerned about the demographic disaster of assimilation. According to them, intermarriage is a phenomenon only in the secular society, and they can therefore can absolve themselves by saying "its not our problem.”  However, those who are concerned for the future of Israel as a Jewish state cannot remain indifferent to the present situation that is developing before our eyes. In only a few years from now, we will split into two separate peoples. Both will be Israelis, Hebrew speakers, and self-identified as Jewish, but only one will be technically and halakhically Jewish.


As important as issues such as kashrut, Shabbat and religious services are, there is currently no Jewish communal matter that comes close to approaching the significance of this challenge upon which our future here as a Jewish state rests.  We must admit and say honestly, the current Chief Rabbinate (with all due respect to the many fine individuals who make up its ranks), as an institution, has neither the desire nor the ability to cope with this challenge. Unfortunately, it buries its head in the sand, and even kowtows to the Chareidi community, which is ambivalent at best, and antagonistic at worst to the very state the Rabbinate is meant to serve.


 Despite the pain and difficulty involved in breaking with this institution that we had great dreams for, I hereby call upon the lay people and the Rabbis of the religious-Zionist community to say openly what many of us have already felt in our hearts for some time. The Chief Rabbinate has run its course.
אם יש עדיין בעולמנו משמעות כלשהי למושגים כמו "רבנות ממלכתית" שיקולים כלל ישראליים  ואף "ציונות דתית" בכלל,דומני שהחלטת הרבנות הראשית לישראל המטילה צל של ספק על הגיורים בצה"ל, צריכה להיות "הקש  האחרון" ביחסנו עם הרה"ר לישראל.


כציוני דתי המאמין שמדינת ישראל היא ראשית צמיחת גאולתנו לא קל לי עם תובנה זו, אך נראה לי כי הגיע הזמן לומר ביושר בכנות ובצער, שהמוסד הזה כפי שההוא נראה היום הגיע כנראה לסוף דרכו.

 החלטת מועצת הרה"ר לישראל  מלבד היותה נגועה באיסור דאורייתא של"הונאת הגר", סיבה מספקת על מנת להוקיעה, משקפת בברור את ההתבטלות המוחלטת של  הגישה הרואה את עצמה אחראית לכלל ישראל ולאופיה היהודי של המדינה, בפני הגישה החרדית הרואה את המציאות דרך אשנב התפיסה החרדית.
הגענו למצב אבסורדי בו ההישג היהודי הגדול של מדינת ישראל  עומד  בסכנה דוקא בשל עמדתם של יהודים חרדים  וכעת גם בתמיכתה של הרה"ר לישראל.


במצב ההתבוללות הנורא בו מצוי העם היהודי בגולה, עם ישראל מאבד אלפי יהודים מדי שנה . מדינת ישראל היתה בעשרות השנים האחרונות המקום היחיד בעולם בו ההתבוללות אינה קיימת כמעט לחלוטין. נישואין בין יהודים לגויים הגרים בארץ , ערבים  דרוזים וכיו"ב  נדירים, וכך היתה ישראל למקום היחיד בעולם המבטיח את העתיד הדמוגרפי של העם היהודי.

בעשור האחרון , כידוע השתנו הדברים. בעליה הברוכה מבריה"מ לשעבר, עלו גם מאות אלפים של צאצאי יהודים שאינם יהודים על פי ההלכה. האנשים היקרים הללו התערו באופן מרשים בחיי המדינה, בחברה, בצבא, בכלכלה, ובכל מערכות החיים. השלב החותם את ההתערות של רבים מהם בחיי המדינה, הוא נישואין עם יהודים ישראלים בני הארץ הזאת.


אתגר לאומי, יהודי, הלכתי מעין זה לא היה לנו מעולם בהיסטוריה של עמנו. זהו הזמן לצאת במבצע לאומי רחב היקף, על מנת לעודד גיור כהלכה של רבים וטובים מן הציבור הזה . זו אמורה להיות שעתה הגדולה של רבנות ממלכתית ששיקולי כלל ישראל לנגד עיניה.

 צריך לומר זאת בברור האפשרויות הן שתיים בלבד: האחת היא מאמץ נרחב לגיור הלכתי מאיר פנים, מעודד וידידותי המסתמך על הדעות המקילות של חלק גדול מפוסקי הדורות המאפשר קבלתם של רבים מעולים אלו לעם ישראל. והשניה היא היצמדות לגישות המחמירות בהלכה אשר על פיהן אין לקבל גיורם של עולים אלו, כאשר המשמעות  של קבלת דרך זו היא אלפי נישואי תערובת בין יהודים לגויים.



 כלל ידוע ומקובל בעולמה של ההלכה הוא שבשעת הדחק סומכים להקל גם על דעת מיעוט בהלכה. במקרה דנן דומה שאין שעת הדחק או שעת חירום גדולה מזו! מה גם שאין צורך להסתמך על דעות יחידות  וניתן להסתמך על דעות הרווחות למדי בעולם הפסיקה.




החרדים המאמצים את הגישה המחמירה, אינם מוטרדים כנראה מאסון ההתבוללות, נישואי התערובת הרי יהיו מנת חלקה של החברה החילונית, ואשר אולי על כן יכולים הם לפטור עצמם באמירת "מה לנו ולצרה זו". אולם מי שחרד לעתידה של ישראל כמדינה יהודית, אינו יכול להישאר אדיש נוכח מצב המתפתח מול עינינו בו בעוד שנים לא מעטות יווצרו כאן שני עמים. שניהם ישראלים  דוברי עברית, בעלי זהות ותודעה עצמית יהודית, אך אחד מהם אינו יהודי בעליל.


עם כל החשיבות לנושאים כמו כשרות, שבת ושרותי דת, אין כיום בארץ שום ענין יהודי ציבורי המתקרב בחשיבותו לאתגר חשוב זה, שההתמודדות עימו קריטית לעתידנו כאן כמדינה יהודית.
 צריך להודות ולומר בהגינות ,הרבנות הראשית הנוכחית בכל הכבוד, ומבלי להתיחס לענינים הפרסונליים של חלק מנושאי התפקידים בה, אין בה את הרצון והיכולת להתמודד עם אתגר זה. במקום זאת היא בוחרת במקרה הטוב לטמון את ראשה בחול, ובמקרה הפחות טוב לכוף את ראשה בפני "גדולי התורה" החרדים הליטאים.


עם כל הכאב והקושי אני קורא אפוא בזאת לחברי הרבנים ולציבור הציוני דתי בכללו לומר בגלוי את שרבים מאיתנו חשים  ושותקים זה מכבר: הרבנות הראשית לישראל הגעה לסוף דרכה.



If there is to remain any meaning to the terms state Rabbinate and religious Zionism, then the recent decision casting aspersions on IDF conversions, should be "last straw" in our relationship with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

As a religious Zionist who believes that Israel is the beginning of our redemption, it is not easy for me to come to terms with this realization, but it seems to me that that the time has come to say honestly, sincerely, and painfully, that the Chief Rabbinate as it stands today has run its course.

 The Rabbinate’s resolution, besides transgressing the biblical prohibition of oppressing converts, (reason enough to reject it), clearly demonstrates its complete abnegation of responsibility to Clal Yisrael and the Jewish character of the state, and preference for a sectarian approach that sees reality through an ultra-orthodox lens .We have reached an absurd situation in which the state’s own Rabbinate, bowing to the Chareidi position, is endangering the past achievements and future potential of Israel.

The high degrees of assimilation of the Jewish people in exile means that Am Yisrael is losing thousands of Jews each year. The State of Israel was until recent decades the only place in the world where assimilation was nearly non-existent. Marriage between Jews and Gentiles living in Israel, Arabs and Druze, etc. are rare, and Israel was the only place that guaranteed the demographic future of the Jewish people.

As is well known, in the last decade, things have changed. The large immigration from the former USSR included hundreds of thousands of descendants of Jews who themselves are not Jewish according to halachah. These wonderful people have in an impressive fashion integrated into the life of the state – into the army, the economy, and into society in general. The stage that should complete the integration for many of them into a normative Jewish life in the state of Israel is marriage with Israeli Jews.

Our people has never in our history faced a challenge like this one before.  This is the time to engage in a broad national campaign, to encourage halachic conversion of large segments of this population. This should be a watershed moment for a state Rabbinate that has the considerations of the entire Jewish people before its eyes.

It must be stated clearly; there are only two options: One is a sweeping effort towards creating an halachic, friendly, and welcoming conversion process based on the large body of lenient opinions articulated in the halachic corpus over generations, that would allow acceptance of many of these immigrants into the Jewish people. The alternative is an unyielding adherence to the most stringent positions in halachah, according to which one may not accept conversions of these immigrants, even at the price of creating thousands of mixed marriages between Jews and Gentiles.

There is a known and accepted principle in the world of Jewish law that under pressing circumstances, one may rely upon a minority opinion. It seems that there could be no greater pressing circumstance or emergency than the current situation! Moreover, there is no need to rely on isolated or obscure opinions but rather there is ample and prevalent precedent in Jewish law for a more permissive approach.
Ultra-Orthodox who adopt the strict approach are apparently unconcerned about the demographic disaster of assimilation. According to them, intermarriage is a phenomenon only in the secular society, and they can therefore can absolve themselves by saying "its not our problem.”  However, those who are concerned for the future of Israel as a Jewish state cannot remain indifferent to the present situation that is developing before our eyes. In only a few years from now, we will split into two separate peoples. Both will be Israelis, Hebrew speakers, and self-identified as Jewish, but only one will be technically and halakhically Jewish.

As important as issues such as kashrut, Shabbat and religious services are, there is currently no Jewish communal matter that comes close to approaching the significance of this challenge upon which our future here as a Jewish state rests.  We must admit and say honestly, the current Chief Rabbinate (with all due respect to the many fine individuals who make up its ranks), as an institution, has neither the desire nor the ability to cope with this challenge. Unfortunately, it buries its head in the sand, and even kowtows to the Chareidi community, which is ambivalent at best, and antagonistic at worst to the very state the Rabbinate is meant to serve.


Despite the pain and difficulty involved in breaking with this institution that we had great dreams for, I hereby call upon the lay people and the Rabbis of the religious-Zionist community to say openly what many of us have already felt in our hearts for some time. The Chief Rabbinate has run its course.

4 comments:

  1. This is something Morey and I have been discussing for quite a while now. It's heartening to hear someone in a respected position of authority speak publicly on this, although disheartening that it's come to this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Just wanted to thank you for all your hard work translating this Op-Ed piece.

    I'd like to link to this post on the next issue of Religion and State in Israel.

    thanks,
    Joel Katz
    Religion and State in Israel
    @religion_state

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Alissa -- yes heartening and sad

    Joel -- hopefully we'll get the English version published in an English newspaper so you'll be able to link to that. How did you find my blog?

    ReplyDelete

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