Rabbi David Stav, head of the moderate Zionist Orthodox Tzohar rabbinical association, called on American Jews today to boycott Israel's official state Chief Rabbis and the country’s official state Chief Rabbinate – both of which are haredi controlled – if the Chief Rabbinate refuses to renew the tenure of Chief Rabbi of Efrat Shlomo Riskin.
Above: Rabbi David Stav
Boycott Israel’s Chief Rabbis, Moderate Zionist Orthodox Rabbinic Leader Tells US Jews
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Rabbi David Stav, head of the moderate Zionist Orthodox Tzohar rabbinical association, called on American Jews today to boycott Israel's official state Chief Rabbis and the country’s official state Chief Rabbinate – both of which are haredi controlled – if the Chief Rabbinate refuses to renew the tenure of Chief Rabbi of Efrat Shlomo Riskin, Ha’aretz reported.
Yesterday, Riskin was passed over by the Chief Rabbinate for an automatic five-year extension of his tenure – an extension given to all rabbis of his class when they reach age 75 if they request it. Instead of granting Riskin’s request, the Chief Rabbi’s Council – a quasi-legislative body with fewer than 10 members, including the chief rabbis themselves – decided to refuse to extend it all, meaning Riskin would be immediately removed from his job.
But the newly elected Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Aryeh Ster, who is Zionist Orthodox, pleaded with the council members to at the very least grant Riskin a hearing before making a decision, and the council reluctantly agreed to do so. But it failed to notify Riskin of its decision, and Riskin only heard through the media that his request had been, at least provisionally, rejected.
Riskin is the founding rabbi of Manhattan’s seminal Modern Orthodox synagogue, Lincoln Square. He immigrated to Israel in the early 1980s to help found the moderate West Bank Jewish settlement of Efrat, and has been the town’s only chief rabbi ever since.
When news of the Chief Rabbinate’s snub of Riskin leaked out yesterday, Efrat’s official state religious council voted unanimously to retain Riskin as the town’s chief rabbi, no matter what the country’s haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate does.
The snub of Riskin reportedly is based on his liberal views on conversion to Judaism – views that are well within halakha (Orthodox Jewish law) but which weaken the monopolistic power over conversion haredi rabbis now hold.
Stav called Jewish communities in the US to stop inviting Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef to visit if the Riskin’s tenure is not extended.
“Rabbi Riskin is the rabbi of hundreds of thousands of Jews belonging to the Modern Orthodox world. He came to Israel with an entire community. Insulting him is equivalent to insulting all modern Orthodox communities in the United States,” Stav told Ha’aretz.
The Chief Rabbinate claims the problem with Riskin’s tenure extension is simply bureaucratic. Riskin, the Chief Rabbinate says, must submit a written request for tenure extension, and after that must appear before his local religious council to get its approval. But, the Chief Rabbinate claims, Riskin did not submit a written request and he did not attended Monday's Chief Rabbinate council meeting – which, it seems, no one invited him to – and therefore, his tenure could not be extended.
The Chief Rabbinate’s version of events was met with widespread incredulity by Riskin’s followers and supporters, and by many others, as well.
"This attempt [to remove Riskin] is not a coincidence. A few months ago there was another attempt by the Chief Rabbinate to delegitimize rabbis from the same community,” Stav insisted.
Rabbi Yuval Cherlow – a top moderate Zionist Orthodox rabbi, a leading member of Tzohar, and the head the IDF-affiliated hesder yeshiva Orot Shaul in Ra’anana – lashed out at the Chief Rabbinate for its attempt to remove Riskin.
“If the Chief Rabbinate abuses its authority [in the Riskin affair and in other matters] I will join those who are acting to abolish this institution entirely, contrary to my actions up to now,” Cherlow tweeted.
The Chief Rabbinate’s attempt to remove Riskin for what appears to be purely political reasons also drew condemnation from some politicians – but not from the prime minister or any members of his Likud Party, who depend on haredi votes to stay in power.