"The categorical denial on the part of the [Chief R] abbinate is, unfortunately, part of the problem. Rather than taking responsibility for the tragedy they inflict upon hundreds of immigrants each month, they simply bury their heads in the sand."
Above: Israel's Chief Rabbis David Lau, left, and Yitzhak Yosef, right
Haredi-Controlled Chief Rabbinate Fails To Recognize US Orthodox Conversions, Disrupts Lives, Ruins Weddings – And Won’t Apologize
Shmarya Rosenberg • Failedmessiah.com
The haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate of Israel’s Department for Jewish and Marital Status is taking months and sometimes longer to answer requests from new immigrants or others wishing to be married in Israel to recognize their conversions to Judaism done in the Diaspora, the Jerusalem Post reported.
When those requests from converts are finally answered by the Chief Rabbinate, the answer given is that the Chief Rabbinate does not recognize their conversions. Many of these rejected converts had Orthodox conversions done through the Rabbinical Council of America’s conversions courts and were, according to a much ballyhooed deal struck several years ago between the RCA and the Chief Rabbinate, supposed have automatic recognition in Israel – a claim critics, including FailedMessiah.com, questioned from the moment the deal was announced.
ITIM, a Modern Orthodox nonprofit that helps Israelis navigate the byzantine and often arbitrary religious services labyrinth controlled by the Chief Rabbinate, sent a letter the Chief Rabbinate’s Department for Jewish and Marital Status on behalf of female convert from the US who was planning on being married in Israel. But to do so, she needed to have her US conversion, done by the RCA’s Beth Din of America, approved by the Chief Rabbinate.
ITIM’s letter was reportedly sent to the Chief Rabbinate’s Department for Jewish and Marital Status in January 2014. The department did not respond to it until June 2015, 17 months later. In that response, the head of the Chief Rabbinate’s Department for Jewish and Marital Status Rabbi Itamar Tubol reportedly wrote that the Chief Rabbinate does not recognize the woman’s conversion. Tubol gave no reason for that rejection.
When asked by the Post, Tubol denied that the request was received in January 2014. He claimed it was received in April 2015, and that the conversion certificate issued by the Beth Din of America had not been sent to him.
In another ITIM case, a woman who had an Orthodox conversion in the US and who wanted to be married in Israel had her conversion rejected by Tubol without explanation. The Orthodox rabbi who converted the woman wrote to the Chief Rabbinate’s Department for Jewish and Marital Status in March 2014 appealing the decision. He also asked for an explanation for the rejection. The Chief Rabbinate’s Department for Jewish and Marital Status did not answer so ITIM sent follow-up letters in June 2014 and again in August 2014. The Chief Rabbinate’s Department for Jewish and Marital Status has never responded.
In response to questions from the Post, Tubol claimed he never received any letters about the case after its initial rejection. He also claimed to have explained the rejection to the US converting rabbi.
Meanwhile, a different US convert converted by the same rabbi was recognized by Tubol without issue.
The Chief Rabbinate’s Department for Jewish and Marital Status also took six months to certify the US-issued get (Jewish bill of divorce) of one man and took three months to approve a UK resident for marriage while the department took an additional two months to approve her future husband, delaying the wedding.
Government regulations require the Chief Rabbinate’s Department for Jewish and Marital Status and other governmental entities to respond to requests within 45 days. Those same regulations require the Chief Rabbinate’s Department for Jewish and Marital Status and other governmental entities to include in their responses explanations for any rejections.
ITIM noted these regulations in a letter to the director of the Chief Rabbinate, Oded Flus, that also included a list of problematic cases, including those mentioned above. Flus did not respond.
ITIM’s head Rabbi Seth Farber called the Chief Rabbinate’s Department for Jewish and Marital Status “unconscionable” and the list of cases he sent Flus “a veritable shopping lost of offensive and outrageous inefficiency.…Itim calls upon the rabbinate to immediately appoint a supervisor to this desk who is familiar with the nuances of Jewish communities in the Diaspora,” said Farber, “In addition, ITIM will insist that a full accounting of how many people had their legitimate Jewish bona fides rejected because of incompetence.”
When told that Tubol claimed not to have received ITIM’s letters or that letters ITIM sent one year were only opened and entered into a case file months or more later, Farber noted ITIM has receipts from the Chief Rabbinate that prove differently.
“In every case, ITIM provided initial letters, reminders, reminders to the reminders, and powers of attorney. The fact that the rabbinate claims that their file was opened on a certain date simply highlights the chaos that characterizes this sensitive office. ITIM has in its possession certifications of receipt from the rabbinate for each of the initial petitions. The categorical denial on the part of the rabbinate is, unfortunately, part of the problem. Rather than taking responsibility for the tragedy they inflict upon hundreds of immigrants each month, they simply bury their heads in the sand,” ITIM’s Farber reportedly said.
A source in the Chief Rabbinate told the Post that “a severe shortage in manpower” had caused the delays.