Exclusive: Edelstein, Herzog call on Chief Rabbis to accept Lookstein convert

In a letter to the Chief Rabbis that 'The Jerusalem Post' exclusively obtained, Edelstein and Herzog praised Lookstein and touted their personal connections to him.

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July 4, 2016 19:25
2 minute read.
KNESSET SPEAKER Yuli Edelstein addresses the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee

KNESSET SPEAKER Yuli Edelstein addresses the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. (photo credit: BOAZ ARAD)

 
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Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) offered to personally vouch for prominent New York Rabbi Haskel Lookstein Monday, after the Petah Tikva Rabbinate rejected his conversion of an American woman.

Lookstein, who was ordained by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, has been a rabbi and spiritual leader at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and the Ramaz Upper School Manhattan’s Upper East Side for more than 50 years. He was ranked the second-most influential rabbi in the US by Newsweek in 2008, and was a prominent Soviet Jewry activist, beginning decades of social activism.

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In a letter to Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef obtained by The Jerusalem Post, Edelstein and Herzog praised Lookstein and touted their personal connections to him.

“We know Rabbi Lookstein personally, as a leading Orthodox rabbi in US Jewry for decades,” they wrote.

The letter states that Lookstein was active in trying to get Yuli Edelstein released from the gulag in the 1980s, and traveled to the Soviet Union to be with Edelstein when he was released, and lit Hanukka candles with him three days later.

Herzog, whose grandfather was chief rabbi of Israel, called Lookstein his “energetic teacher and educator,” having attended Ramaz for high school, and saying the rabbi “taught generations of students.”

Edelstein and Herzog wrote that the decision to reject a conversion Lookstein conducted is “a grave injustice and an embarrassment to one of the most important teachers of halacha (Jewish law) and Zionist leaders of American Jewry, and we ask you to please reconsider it as soon as possible.”

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“We will be happy to appear before the Chief Rabbinical Council or any other authorized body,” they added.

Last month, the Petah Tikva rabbinate rejected his conversion of an American woman to Judaism, whom Lookstein said is quite observant, after she sought to marry an Israeli man. The story made waves in the US not only because of Lookstein’s prominence, but because he conducted the conversion of US presidential candidate Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka before she married Jared Kushner, who is Orthodox.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Rabbinical Court will hear an appeal of the case.

Ramaz alumni and the ITIM religious services advisory group, which spearheaded the appeal, plan to demonstrate outside the Chief Rabbinate’s offices Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Rabbinical Court will hear an appeal of the case.

Ramaz alumni and the ITIM religious services advisory group, which spearheaded the appeal, plan to demonstrate outside the Chief Rabbinate's offices Wednesday morning.

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