Hadassah in a bind over choice of institution rabbi
Selection committee looking for candidate to replace Rabbi Ya’acov Rakovsky
who died after decades in the job.
YA’ACOV RAKOVSKY Photo: Courtesy Hadassah
A selection committee of the Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) in Jerusalem is
due to decide “within a few days” who will be its next official
The official rabbi is in charge of religious decisions and
activities on the Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus campuses of the two Hadassah
University Medical Centers. Ten rabbis have presented their
The new rabbi is to replace the late Rabbi Ya’acov Rakovsky,
who was the religious authority at HMO for decades.
committee has interviewed the candidates, but HMO did not provide further
information, except to say that the appointment would be announced “within a few
The decision is not simple, as the rabbi of the two campuses –
with a total of 1,000 hospital beds – has much influence on kashrut policies,
the declaration of clinical death, organ donation, autopsies, delivery room
practices and other decisions relating to patients.
HMO did not provide a
list of the candidates or their affiliation, but a struggle is taking place
between the haredi and the Zionist/national religious sector.
Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America – owners of the medical centers
– there is opposition among the national-religious sector to the appointment of a
non-Zionist or even anti-Zionist rabbi who could alienate supporters and make
decisions that would upset the general public.
Years ago, for example,
numerous secular and modern Orthodox women who thought of giving birth at the
competing Shaare Zedek Medical Center decided not to because the hospital’s Eda
Haredit rabbi refused to allow husbands to be in delivery rooms with their
wives. A more flexible rabbi who later replaced him allowed husbands to be
present. (According to Halacha, a husband is not allowed to see his wife’s blood
emerging with the baby during delivery. He is allowed to be in the room, but
must look on from a “more modest” vantage point.) HMO is eager to court haredi
families, as its has had some conflict with the community. The tension was
caused due to its disclosure over two years ago that a haredi woman nearly
caused her small child to die as she suffered from Munchausen-by-proxy and
secretly prevented him from eating and being treated properly. The mother was
jailed by the courts and kept from her children for some time.
action led to a proclaimed haredi boycott of Hadassah medical centers that was
largely ignored by the community. Since haredi babies comprise a major portion
of newborns in the Jerusalem area and the National Insurance Institute pays for
each birth rather than the health funds paying a smaller per-diem fee, haredi
dissatisfaction would mean a major loss of income to HMO.
anonymous advertisement was placed by the “Committee for a Zionist Rabbi at
Hadassah” in The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. Its aim, to “Keep Hadassah
Zionist.” The ad stated that “an ultra-Orthodox (haredi) rabbi is being
considered for the post of the head rabbi of Hadassah Medical
“For 100 years, Hadassah... has thrived as the world’s largest
Zionist body – especially through its magnificent healing of the people of
“We support Hadassah’s mission to provide professional and
compassionate medical care to all elements of Israeli society and their
The ad continued that “we feel strongly that
Hadassah avoid election to this official position a rabbi who solely serves the
need of narrow interests groups and fails to personally represent an inclusive
The timing of the ad ensures that so it will come
to the attention of the 1,500 HWZOA members and supporters who are currently in
Jerusalem to celebrate the women’s organization’s centenary and dedicate the new
$363 million hospitalization tower.