Following a six-year battle, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has finally made public the lists of overseas rabbis it recognizes for the purposes of conversion and divorce. This year, Ivanka Trump’s rabbi made the cut.
The lists only contain the names of Orthodox rabbis, because the religious institution does not recognize other Jewish movements.
The conversion and divorce lists were published (in Hebrew) on the Rabbinate’s official state website in recent days. A third list of rabbis recognized for the purpose of marriage has yet to be published.
Individuals from abroad who register to marry in Israel must provide proof that they are Jewish if their parents were not married under the auspices of the Rabbinate. Typically, such certification is provided by their congregational rabbis back home. Overseas congregational rabbis also provide letters of certification for converts and divorce.
For such individuals, therefore, knowing which rabbis appear on the approved lists is critical. Until now, though, these lists have been kept under wraps.
Spearheading the campaign to force the Rabbinate to publish them has been ITIM – an Israeli organization that helps individuals challenged by Israel’s religious bureaucracy. ITIM has demanded on numerous occasions over the past six years that the Rabbinate hand over the lists, going so far as to threaten it with legal action if it did not comply.
Two years ago, ITIM represented an American woman whose conversion by a prominent New York rabbi, Haskel Lookstein, was rejected by the Rabbinate. Lookstein had also converted Trump, the daughter of President Trump.
The new list of rabbis recognized for conversions does include Lookstein. It does not, however, include the Vaad Harabanim of Flatbush – a rabbinical court that has converted thousands of individuals over the years.
Most of the rabbis on the two lists reside in the United States. The lists also include rabbis who are not members of the Rabbinical Council of America, the main organization representing Orthodox rabbis in the country.