California rabbis ask to be blacklisted by Israel's Chief Rabbinate

In solidarity with the 160 rabbis blacklisted by the Chief Rabbinate, San Diego rabbis requested to be added to the list.

David Lau
NEW YORK – Thirteen rabbis from San Diego sent a letter to Israel’s Chief Rabbinate on Tuesday asking to be added to its recent blacklist of rabbis whose authority to approve Jewish status is rejected, as a show of solidarity with affected colleagues.
Several prominent Orthodox rabbinical leaders were among the 159 rabbis on the list, details of which emerged on Sunday.
Graduates of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) yeshivot are also listed along with Conservative and Reform rabbis.
The Chief Rabbinate’s rejection of the credentials of rabbis on the list particularly affects immigrants to Israel who register for marriage and must provide evidence of their Jewish status, including a letter from a communal rabbi who knows them, affirming they are indeed Jewish.
“We, the following San Diego, California, rabbis are outraged that we were left off of your blacklist of rabbis whose testimony as to the Jewish identity of their congregants are unacceptable to Israel’s Chief Rabbinate,” the letter said. “In the future please include our names among the other blacklisted rabbis. We would consider it an honor.”
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One of those who signed the letter, Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal of the Conservative Tifereth Israel Synagogue, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that he felt insulted by the Chief Rabbinate’s list.
“It goes beyond halachic questions of whether or not the Chief Rabbinate would accept the conversions of any American rabbi,” he said. “When you’re talking about testimony as to who is Jewish, they are essentially saying that we are not trustworthy, basically saying that we are liars.”
The letter, he said, was “a way of telling the Chief Rabbinate that we are going to be who we are going to be. We are sure about our identity and if our identity is not clear enough to the Chief Rabbinate, we will be happy to side with those whom it rejects.”
“They are colleagues and there’s really no difference between me and them,” Rosenthal said. “If they are not accepting the word of Conservative rabbis on that list, they really shouldn’t be accepting mine either.”
Rosenthal added that he has in the past found himself sending congregants to Orthodox rabbis out of fear that his testimony about their Judaism wouldn’t to be accepted in Israel.
In light of the recent decisions in Israel to freeze the agreement on an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall and push for a bill that would grant the Chief Rabbinate a monopoly over conversions in the country, Rosenthal said he was worried about the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jews.
“The conversion issue is troubling enough. The Kotel issue is troubling enough. But then to say that we are not even trustworthy to say that we know this person and we know their mother is Jewish, that to me is overly, doubly insulting.” he told the Post.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.