Avi Weiss Letter Vouching for American Couple Dismissed By Chief Rabbinate

Involvement with Yeshivat Chovevei Torah May Be At Fault

By JTA

Published October 17, 2013.
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The Chief Rabbinate of Israel rejected a letter vouching for the Jewishness of an American couple marrying in Israel written by well-known Orthodox Rabbi Avi Weiss, as well as at least 10 rabbis in other cases, The New York Jewish Week reported.

Weiss, the longtime spiritual leader of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in New York City, told The Jewish Week that he believes his rejection was political — related to his involvement in Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a liberal Orthodox rabbinical school he founded and led, and Yeshivat Maharat, a seminary for Modern Orthodox women.

The Chief Rabbinate previously had accepted “countless” similar letters from Weiss, the rabbi told the newspaper. Other rabbis said they were outraged by the rejection of their letters but declined to be interviewed by the newspaper. The rejections occurred over about six months.

A letter vouching for a couple’s Jewishness and singlehood has been required for decades from every couple wishing to marry in Israel.

The Chief Rabbinate decided several years ago that it would no longer automatically recognize conversions performed by Orthodox rabbis in the Diaspora, and agreed to accept those of a limited number of approved rabbinical courts, or batei din. It is believed that the Jewishness of Jews by birth in the Diaspora wishing to be married in Israel also will now require a beit din, even though, Rabbi Seth Farber of the ITIM organization noted, “Throughout Jewish history, local community rabbis have always been trusted to certify the status of their community members.”

“The rabbinate is heading in the direction where they will no longer accept any community rabbi,” Farber told The Jewish Week, “and will instead insist on rabbinical courts certifying someone’s Jewishness, a situation that is completely unmanageable in North America.”


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