Dershowitz backs Weiss in Chief Rabbinate spat

November 13, 2013 00:18

The rabbinate recently rejected a letter by Weiss vouching for the Jewish credentials of an American couple seeking to wed in Israel.

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Alan Dershowitz.

Alan Dershowitz 521. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ The Jerusalem Post)

US attorney Alan Dershowitz is asking President Shimon Peres to intervene in the case of the apparent blacklisting of Rabbi Avi Weiss by the Chief Rabbinate.

The rabbinate recently rejected a letter by Weiss vouching for the Jewish credentials of an American couple seeking to wed in Israel (the rabbinate requires a letter from an Orthodox rabbi certifying one’s Jewishness in cases of non-Israelis seeking to immigrate or marry in Israel).

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Weiss, the spiritual leader of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, has been the subject of controversy in recent years for pushing the envelope when it comes to ordaining Orthodox women as clergy.

After learning that his credentials were being challenged by the rabbinate, Weiss penned an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post earlier this month calling on Israel to end the rabbinate’s “monopoly on religious dictates of the state.”

Dershowitz said “Weiss is one of the foremost modern open Orthodox rabbis in America and one of the strongest advocates anywhere for the State of Israel.

“As a person – I am deeply saddened by the pubic shaming of my friend, Rabbi Avraham Weiss, the leader of a flagship Orthodox congregation.

“As a Jew – I understand that today, more than ever before, there is a chasm between the Jews of the United States and the religious institutions in Israel.

“I call upon the leaders of Israel to first understand that there is a serious problem which demands attention, and to understand that they mustn’t bend to baseless religious tyranny.”

Earlier this week the Chief Rabbinate said it does not have a list of Diaspora rabbis whose testimony it accepts on clarifying one’s Jewish or marital status.

Responding to a request made in September by the Tzohar rabbinical organization to see such a list, a spokesman for the Chief Rabbinate told the Post that “no list exists either hidden or public.”

According to the Post report, which appeared Monday, the spokesman said every request made for clarification of Jewish and marital status “is examined individually and thoroughly.”

Tzohar says an increasing number of Jewish couples from North America have had difficulty in registering upcoming marriages with the Chief Rabbinate because the testimony of their communal rabbis was not recognized.

Sam Sokol contributed to this report.

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