Another good op-ed from Isi Leibler. Following on from last week’s about Israel’s flawed electoral system, this week he targets the Chief Rabbinate:
Clearly, the haredi establishment is determined to turn the clock back and impose the most stringent standards of observance on the entire nation, irrespective of the consequences.
The most damaging aspect of this haredi controlled Chief Rabbinate is the utterly myopic attitude towards conversion which it has transformed into an obstacle course, imposing requirements frequently beyond those of the Talmud, Maimonides or even the Shulchan Aruch.
Nowhere is the term halachic blackmail more appropriate than in this area in which any rabbi challenging the stringent insensitive approach is invariably deemed heretical and subjected to vicious character assassination. [...]
There are halachic grounds for employing maximum flexibility in the case of 350,000 non halachic Jews living in a Jewish state. One must take into account that intermarriage in the Soviet Union was a byproduct of Jews forcibly estranged from their heritage for 70 years by a hostile regime. That millions of them came to Israel or joined other diaspora Jewish communities should be seen as an extraordinary miracle. Yet, the intransigence of the current haredi rabbinate represents a ticking time bomb which may inflict personal tragedies on the lives of future generations of Israelis with the potential of undermining the stability and social cohesion of the nation.
Of course, Leibler could easily extend this not only to allowing more liberal versions of Orthodox conversions, but also reform conversions. Indeed, further limiting the Rabbinate’s rules with regards to women praying at the Kotel and civil marriage, for example, would be far from unwarranted.