Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky has joined the controversy surrounding the recent rejection by the Chief Rabbinate of the rabbinic credentials of US Rabbi Avi Weiss, calling the decision “absurd.”

In October, the rabbinate refused to authorize Weiss, a respected Orthodox rabbi from New York, to give testimony on the Jewish and marital status of former congregants wishing to register for marriage in Israel.

“Rabbi Avi Weiss is a prominent leader of the Modern Orthodox Jewish world. By his teachings and his personal example, he has inspired and raised generations of Jews in the spirit of kol yisra’el arevim zeh la-zeh (the principle that all Jews are responsible for one another) and with a deep commitment to the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” said Sharansky in a statement to the press.

“Rabbi Weiss’s commitment and integrity are beyond reproach, which is why I find the ongoing discussion about his rabbinic credentials absurd,” he continued. He added that the Jewish Agency and its emissaries would “continue to honor Rabbi Weiss’s certifications and recommendations, as we have been proud to do up until now.”

Currently, the Ministry of the Interior must consult with the Jewish Agency when determining whether an Orthodox convert from outside Israel is eligible for immigration under the Law of Return.

Although Weiss’s case is the most prominent, several organizations have alleged that the Chief Rabbinate in recent years has rejected the rabbinic credentials of increasing numbers of foreign rabbis, particularly in the US, and that the problem is becoming systemic.

The Chief Rabbinate is currently in discussions with the Rabbinical Council of America, an Orthodox association of rabbis, to resolve the problem.

Rabbi Reuven Tradburks, the representative of the RCA in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post that discussions have been extremely positive and that the two sides are close to an agreement. He said a deal should be signed within a week.

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