As part of a bid to strengthen the Chief Rabbinate, Religious Services Minister
Ya’acov Margi is hoping to see legislation determining that non-Orthodox
movements have no place on Israel’s religious map, and move the rabbinate back
to his ministry’s auspices.
Speaking at a Knesset event Tuesday marking
90 years since the rabbinate’s inception, Margi noted the factors weakening the
status of the Chief Rabbinate. One is the rabbinate’s being under the
ministerial authority of the Prime Minister’s Office, where it moved in 2003
after the government dismantled the Religious Affairs Ministry.
2008 it was reestablished under its current title, some of the responsibilities
returned to the ministry, while others remained where they had been assigned.
The rabbinic courts, for example, remain part of the Justice
But a more dominant factor in threatening the rabbinate’s
status are “the extra-parliamentary bodies,” Margi said, such as “the women’s
groups who made their struggle with the rabbinate and rabbinic courts their
agenda, in order to weaken them as much as possible. These were joined by the
Reform and Conservative movements, and recently rabbinic organizations that
criticize the rabbinate, and act from outside it.”
The modern Orthodox
Tzohar rabbinical group, for example, offers the public a variety of services,
including marriage registration and conducting wedding ceremonies in some
Margi also slammed the conduct of “some of the rabbinates in the
country that cut themselves off from the public discourse in Israel, and
challenged decisions of the Chief Rabbinic Council.”
The minister might
have been referring to the four marriage registrars who refused to recognize
conversions approved by the Chief Rabbinate – Rabbi Haim Blau of Ashkelon, Rabbi
Simcha Hacohen Kook of Rehovot, Rabbi Yehuda Dov Wolpe of Rishon Lezion and
Rabbi Yosef Sheinin of Ashdod.
The rabbinate has decided to allow them to
remain in their positions, but refer converts to other marriage registrars
To strengthen its status, Margi called for legislation making
the Chief Rabbinate the supreme rabbinical institution in Israel and the world,
and wants to move the rabbinate under the ministerial authority of the Religious
Services Ministry instead of the Prime Minister’s Office.
He wants to
give more weight to adjudications of the chief rabbis regarding legislation
pertaining to religious affairs, and empower the rabbinate to reform its
internal management, to include online national marriage registration, unifying
and strengthening its kashrut supervision, and increasing outreach and the
availability of information on Jewish identity.
In addition, Margi
called, “to determine by law that there are no streams in Judaism, only one that
has been passed down to us from generation to generation.”
for Margi would not elaborate on Wednesday what exactly such legislation could
entail, but merely stressed the need to have “one rabbinic body that will
concentrate all religious services, and that the struggles to weaken the
rabbinate will be put to an end.”