Liberal Rabbis: Don’t Blame the Chief Rabbinate – Blame Yourselves


By Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer

(This article first appeared in Arutz Sheva.)

Liberal Orthodox rabbis are shooting the new Haaretz article rapid-fire through the world of social media, assuming it will help their cause and will damage the image of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. The Haaretz article is entitled Rabbi of World’s Largest Orthodox Synagogue Accuses Israel’s Rabbinate of Blasphemy, and it bears the subtitle: “Appearing before a Knesset committee, Rabbi Adam Scheier calls his blacklisting by the Chief Rabbinate an ‘irresponsible’ act that has diminished his reputation in Canada.”

The article proceeds to explain that Rabbi Scheier’s name appeared in a list of 160 rabbis whose letters attesting to people’s Jewishness, for the purposes of marriage in the State of Israel, were rejected by the Rabbanut (the Chief Rabbinate). At a special Knesset session convened by MK Elazar Stern of the Yesh Atid party (which is largely perceived as an anti-religious party) , Rabbi Scheier related that the Rabbanut rejected a letter he had written attesting to a young woman’s Jewish and single status, and that the Rabbanut failed to contact Rabbi Scheier about the matter:

But they never even called me. Then later, they suggested it was another issue. But again they didn’t contact me – and I am the easiest person in the world to find.

The Rabbinate has eroded my own community’s trust in my reliability. This must end. The bureaucracy and exclusionary practices do not meet the basic standards of decency and professionalism.

This is not a matter of religious standards. It’s a matter of basic humanity. Diaspora rabbis deserve better, our communities deserve better and Israel deserves better.

Rabbi Scheier presents the issue in the role of victim, portraying the Chief Rabbinate as the faulty party and himself as the well-intentioned and just party who was wrongly injured and smeared. While one cannot defend any possible lack of professionalism, decency and efficiency on the part of the Rabbanut’s clerks – or on the part of any other government office – Rabbi Scheier’s allegations of absence of proper protocol and derech eretz (courtesy) are a wholesale diversion of the real issue.

What Rabbi Scheier failed to disclose in his comprehensive condemnation of the Rabbanut for rejecting his letter was that – believe it or not – there may have been some pretty good reasons for the Rabbanut to have been uncomfortable with him. For example, Rabbi Scheier hired and retains an ordained, female clergy member at his synagogue; she is involved with International Rabbinic Fellowship (as is he) and with Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance – both organizations that are outside of mainstream Orthodoxy. Rabbi Scheier’s wife is a rabbi, and he himself was ordained by an Open Orthodox rabbinical school which is affiliated with the school that ordained his wife and his synagogue’s female clergy member.

Ordaining women for the rabbinate and hiring female clergy are in violation of the rulings and policies of the generation’s foremost halachic authorities and preeminent rabbinical organizations; please see here, here, here, here, here and here. Rabbi Scheier is also a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, which is a pluralistic organization whose policies are outside of standard Orthodoxy.  This all does not speak well for Rabbi Scheier in terms of normative Orthodox identification.

These factors would give pause to any mainstream rabbinic body. So let’s please stop depicting the Rabbanut as acting capriciously and illogically, and consider the fact that perhaps there are some pretty good reasons for its concern. Rabbi Scheier is most likely a very fine and caring person, but the issue here is one of normative Orthodox identification and comportment.

The Haaretz article invokes the words of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, who argued that “the Rabbinate recognize automatically all Orthodox congregational rabbis.” Rabbi Riskin seeks for the implementation of a standard that is basically no standard, as rather than vet and investigate the competence and merits of each rabbi – something one would hope and expect the Chief Rabbinate would do, just as we would demand of any oversight body regulating sensitive issues – Rabbi Riskin seeks to have the bar lowered beyond belief, abdicating any real sense of responsibility for quality control.

Rabbi Seth Farber was a central player to this most recent attack on the Rabbanut, as is he for nearly all attacks on the Rabbanut. Haaretz reports:

Rabbi Seth Farber, the founder and executive director of ITIM, an organization that assists individuals in navigating Israel’s religious bureaucracy, provided updated figures showing that the Rabbinate continues to reject many rabbis from abroad.

“Over the past year, 627 individuals who applied to marry in Israel had their rabbinical letters of certification rejected,” he said. “That’s one in every four.”

Rabbi Farber maintains that the Chief Rabbinate should accept halachic testimony from Reform and Conservative clergy – rabbis who do not believe in, accept or observe Halacha. Nearly all of the 627 letters referenced by Rabbi Farber were written by Reform or Conservative clergy, but Rabbi Farber, while claiming to be an Orthodox rabbi, complains that the Rabbanut unjustly rejected those letters of testimony from non-Orthodox rabbis (!).

Please carefully read this article, documenting Rabbi Farber using false data and materially misrepresenting information, in order to malign the Chief Rabbinate and accuse it of that which it did not do. Rabbi Farber and others have an agenda-driven campaign to discredit and dismantle the Rabbanut, lobbying and pressuring for lower standards or no standards, rather than for reliable and tight standards that assure unquestionable adherence to Halacha.

It is always easy to play the victim; it is not always so easy to tell the truth.


  1. Oh come on. Couldn’t this article wait till after Purim? I’m trying to get and stay in a good mood. It’s now time to get into serious simcha. Why the need to publish these controversial depressing reports?

    • Even the mitzvah of upholding yiddishkeit needs to be done with Simcha – so I see no reason for this to depress you. B’H we have courageous people today, like in the days of Mordechai and Esther, that do everything they can to uphold yiddishkeit/Torah standards. Rejoice…

  2. If they’re loony, treat them l’fy Halakhah. ISOLATION. AQUM does not like double-agents either. Controlled min’us very neatly among the early t’naim.

  3. The simchah, perhaps even the nes, of Purim is the revelation of the koach of CHaZa”L, beginning with the Anshei Kenesses HaGedolah, to discover, reveal, enact, and uphold the Ratzon HaShem through the untiring and unrelenting toil in Torah. What Rabbi Gordimer SHLiT”A writes, in this article and in all the articles he writes, consistently defends that revelation and is thus very appropriate as a pre-Purim warm-up. Kimu v’kiblu ha’Yehudim! Yiyasher kochacha Rabbi Gordimer. Chazak ve’ematz.

  4. This comes directly from the official web-site of Minister Scheier’s temple. It is a clear indication that he operates outside the norms of any of the branches of traditional, main-stream Orthodoxy:

    Rabbi Adam Scheier is Senior Rabbi of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim. He is Past President of the Montreal Board of Rabbis, Vice-President of the Rabbinical Council of Canada, and Senior Rabbinic Fellow of Jerusalem’s Hartman Institute. In 2015, Rabbi Scheier co-edited and published the Canadian Haggadah Canadienne, which received positive acclaim in Canada and worldwide. He is a founding member of the Board of Trustees of the International Rabbinic Fellowship, a leading Modern Orthodox organization consisting of over 200 rabbis, communal scholars, and clergy. He also serves on the Rabbinic Advisory Board of Yeshivat Maharat, the first institution to train Orthodox women as spiritual leaders. Rabbi Scheier is proud to be the rabbi of the first synagogue to hire a graduate of Yeshivat Maharat.

    • The Canadian Haggadah Canadienne which Rabbi Scheier co-edited and published contains commentary culled from reform, conservative and other progressive “rabbis” including a Maharat. No true orthodox rabbi would ever join with a progressive “rabbi” who denies Torah from heaven to write a Haggadah.

  5. Blasphemy to humiliate the orthodox. Reform has zero favor from Torah.

    Great thought is that the jews can very well eventually decide if they are to obey our commandments. It is living hate for Israel.

    Hashem is available. Cry to him that liberal judaism is hate to our family. He will not stop your right to call upon it dead.

    Very offensive. I study some of their rabbis and their lives. Blasphemy fills many their years. Zero purity.

    No one expects the hidden one to matter in the movement. Hashem has a Torah future.

  6. Core granted hate for Jerusalem. The liberal movement is trash.

    If you think you can be a reform jew and declare Hashem zero, you are in for it. They have miserable lives and their synagogues are dark nursing ares for sin.

    Hidxen agendas include allowing gentiles to fully have say in jewish religious matter. Israel Jacobson their first wanted a state for blasphemy. The whole movement is dreaming of death.

    Have fun yidden. Any orthodox charity supports their removal. Hashem listens to Israel.


  7. Reform. The way to donate to Esau what was rightfully Jacobs.

    Gold for tomorrows bacon. Hunter strong. A quiver from the arabs and a grade for destroying the garden.

    Good friends. They will never call. Their coffers mean more than your home.

    Help them. Ask Hashem to restore our judges. No reform rabbi would exist.

    Hillel is filled with the vermin. If you go to college greet your jewish buddies. All good corny days are fun. Torah is just the dry type.

    Moons go. Hashem has orthodox for our privilege. We wait for Torah. Esau and the reform for their abomination.

    Bible clear. Death is granted.

    No way should any jew walk to the biased hate. Its blood well the angel of death.

    The reform hate very much the commandments. Ever see one in tzitzits? Thats your ba’al teshuvah. Else it is their daughter.

    I gravely hope Hashem gives greater hope for orthodox employment. The reform will bot improve conditions for Jacob.

    Esau precise.

  8. why use fancy terms mainstream,fringe etc say it like it is….they dont believe torah min hashomayim so they kofrim….see sanhedrin , rambam ‘even one letter one says is not , is heretic’

  9. what’s a bigger threat throwing kids out of yeshiva or open orthodox! stop using tactics of dictators to distract the masses! how about focus on the lack of addressing issues instead of finding new problems!

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