ABSOLUTE POWER DOES CORRUPT; EVEN RABBIS
One cannot help but wonder if David Ben Gurion, the founding father of the State of Israel, were alive today he might have any regrets about the powers ceded to the Chief Rabbinate and the unilateral decision to turn the Ministry of Religion over to the exclusive control of Israel’s Orthodox Rabbinate.
A quick review of the history of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate would clearly show that it has never been in the business of Tikun Olam (repairing the world) or seeking social justice. Regrettably, the Chief Rabbinate has expended most of it’s energies on maintaining and extending its power over the lives of the people. It alone maintains the power to determine who is a Jew; who is a rabbi, whose conversion to Judaism is acceptable, who can be married to whom, who can be buried in a Jewish cemetery in Israel, which women are free to remarry and start new lives, which women must stayed “bound” to a marriage that no longer exists.
For the past three years I’ve had the privilege of teaching an Introduction to Judaism class at the Conservative Synagogue I belong to here in Las Vegas. Most of the students in the class are taking the course for the purpose of conversion. In the final weeks of the course we usually turn our studies to the state of world Jewry today. I’m inevitably embarrassed to have to tell my students that the ordination of the Rabbi of our Conservative congregation would be recognized and he could in turn perform weddings in any country in the world except the Jewish State of Israel!
When a distinguished Orthodox Rabbi such as Marc Angel finds it necessary to publicly deride the office of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, it is time for world Jewry in general and the government of Israel in particular to sit up and take notice of this chronic institutional ailment that is only getting worse with the passage of time. Rather than being an articulate voice for promoting the noble ideas and values of Judaism, the Chief Rabbinate has become nothing more than a means by which an elite group of Haredi (ultra Orthodox) rabbis work tirelessly….not on the interests of Torah and the Jewish people, but in protecting and concentrating their hold over life in the Jewish State. Is this what we would ideally want from the people who are supposed to be the primary teachers and spiritual leaders of the people Israel?
I encourage you to read Rabbi Angel’s article and pass it on to others.