Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University left the following disturbing comment on Hirhurim just before Shabbat:
[I]t is not clear that Rabbi Eisenstein making a pronouncement in Rabbi Elyashiv's name has any real consequences. Did any resolution emerge from the gathering which limited the list of rabbanim whose conversions will be excepted based on these criteria? While there is no doubt about his gadlus in Torah, Rav Elyashiv has apparently greater impact in America then in Israel. His views about who should get elected mayor in the Haredi city of Betar Illit and who should be rosh yeshiva in Ponovitch had little effect. See the article in todays ynet (in Hebrew under Yahadut) on the fading influence of the Lithuanian elite on Haredi Jewry in Israel. It refers directly to those who speak in the name of Rav Elyashiv.
Yosef Blau | Homepage | 11.09.07 - 11:39 am | #
Rabbi Blau is also president of the Religious Zionists of America.
The problem with Rabbi Blau's comment is his apparent failure to understand the Israeli haredi world. No matter how conciliatory Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar seems, at the end of the day he must take the views of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and the Ashkenazi haredim in account. They have standing in Israel; Rabbi Blau (who is a good man, BTW) and the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) do not.
Further, Eternal Jewish Family's leader – Rabbi Leib Tropper – and Rabbi Eisenstein are very close. They work closely together and share the same basic worldview. Rabbi Tropper, in fact, was a leading player in getting the so-called gedolim to ban Rabbi Slifkin and his books. And Rabbi Tropper has done worse than that, things that should make the RCA stay far away from him. Instead, ignorant and, one could argue, willfully blind, they draw close to him, convinced he means well when it is already clear that he does not.
For his part, Rabbi Amar has a history of being conciliatory to modern elements in Orthodoxy and then himself caving into Ashkenazi haredi demands and revesing himself– for example, the conference on agunot he called and then canceled at the last minute when Rabbi Elyashiv & Co. opposed it. The same is true for other issues. Conversion is, I believe we will soon see, one of those issues.
In the end, the RCA will be screwed. It will have already given up way too much to Rabbi Amar when the final, haredi-led boom is lowered.
Converts and potential converts will suffer as a result. American Jewry as a whole will suffer, too.
So why is the RCA this weak? The real problem seems to be twofold.
First, the RCA's religious 'leadership' – AKA, Rabbi Hershel Schachter – is both weak and haredi-leaning. (Hershel Schachter is to Modern Orthodoxy as Avi Weiss is to Neturei Karta.)
Second, the RCA seems to be more worried about excluding Orthodoxy's left wing – Chovvei Torah and the like, than in protecting its own constituency.
Please remember this well: Rabbi Eisenstein made those hateful comments to the full EJF convention. He was not challenged by anyone publicly, including RCA members in attendance. The RCA issued no statement against him or those remarks. Why?
I think the answer is as follows: The RCA thinks it has a deal, a deal that excludes Rabbi Eisenstein's extreme demands and also gives the RCA the power to exclude rabbis who it does not like and who are on its left politically and religiously. The Rabbinut and the haredim would anyway exclude these rabbis, but giving the RCA the control of the whip, so to speak, increases its power and weakens Chovvei Torah.
In other words, the RCA has already given almost everything else to Rabbi Amar in return for almost nothing of value to American Jewry in general and its constituency in particular, and Rabbi Amar has agreed in principle to that deal.
The RCA will have sold out potential converts, its own rabbis and its own constituency.
Later, when the RCA's converts can't really marry in Israel or have to jump through hoops in order to do so, or the Chief Rabbinate 'suddenly' adopts Rabbi Eisenstein's demands, the RCA will be shocked. No one else should be.
Haredim will set the conversion agenda for the next generation, and you have one group of people to thank for that – the Rabbinical Council of America.