Anger in Jewish world grows over detention of Conservative rabbi

The Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement said it was “outraged” by the incident.

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July 21, 2018 02:58
3 minute read.
Dubi Haiyun in front of the President's residence, July 19, 2018

Dubi Haiyun in front of the President's residence, July 19, 2018. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

 
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Outrage continued to grow over the weekend across the Diaspora following the detention and questioning Thursday at 5:30 a.m. of Conservative Rabbi Dov Hayun for allegedly conducting marriages outside the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate.

Hayun was arrested following a complaint from the Haifa Rabbinical Court to the Haifa Police in which it requested a criminal investigation of Hayun for violating the Law for Weddings and Divorce. A 2015 amendment to that law stipulates that anyone officiating at a wedding without registering it with the Chief Rabbinate is liable to prosecution and subject to up to two years imprisonment.

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The Haifa Rabbinical Court also noted that one of the spouses in that 2016 wedding performed by Hayun was a mamzer, a status in Jewish law that precludes the person from marrying a kohen, a member of the priestly caste, although marrying such a person is not a criminal offense.

Hayun said he ruled that the spouse was not a mamzer and so he married them, a ruling which the Haifa Rabbinical Court concurred with18 months later.

Thursday’s incident was theirst time the amendment has been enforced.

The Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement, the denomination’s guiding rabbinical authority, said it was “outraged” by the incident and called the manner in which Hayun was detained – with police knocking on his door at 5:30 in the morning – “shocking.”

RA Israel president Rabbi Mikie Goldstein said it was “unthinkable that a rabbi in Israel should be arrested for officiating at a Jewish wedding ‘according to the Law of Moses and Israel.’ And it is unthinkable that the state should dictate to its citizens how to believe, how to fulfill mitzvot or how to live their religious lives.”

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Goldstein, a native of Liverpool, England, who has been living in Israel since 1989, assumed the pulpit in 2014 as the leader of Adat Shalom Emanuel in Rehovot, the only non-Orthodox synagogue in the city. He is the country’s first homosexual Masorti rabbi.

The UJA-Federation of New York also condemned the incident, with CEO Eric S. Goldstein saying the federation was “deeply disturbed” by the incident, which it said was “dramatically inconsistent with Israel’s promise as the home of the entire Jewish people, and its commitment to equality and respect for all its citizens.”

The Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel, together with members of the Reform Movement in Israel, and the Panim organization, is planning to demonstrate Sunday at 1 p.m. outside the Haifa Rabbinical Court. Symbolically the protest over Hayun’s arrest will take place during the fast of Tisha Be’av. Demonstrators will recite Megillat Eicha (Book of Lamentations) and the mourning dirges traditionally recited on the fast day. The Second Temple was destroyed because of sinaat heinam (gratuitous hatred), they note.

Meanwhile, about 50 officiants from the Havaya Israeli Life Cycle Ceremonies center, which carries out weddings outside the auspices of the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate, “surrendered” themselves to police on Friday morning in protest against the arrest of Hayun.

The officiants who gathered outside Moriah Police station in Jerusalem were instructed to prepare an orderly record of the names of the couples they married, the dates of the ceremonies and witness names in order for the individual cases to be investigated.

In contrast, officers at the Lev Tel Aviv Police station claimed there was no reason for any arrests or further investigation, despite the fact that the officiants who gathered there claimed to have performed more than 1,000 marriages outside the framework of the Orthodox rabbinate.

Actress Esti Zakheim, who took part in Friday’s activities, said, “The last few days in this country have been difficult. I feel that we must fight for our freedom when laws like the nation-state bill are passed and a Conservative rabbi is arrested just because he has married a couple outside the Orthodox rabbinate.”

“We must continue to fight for our freedom and the freedom of our country.”

Juliane Helmhold contributed to this report.

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