Hadassah in a bind over choice of institution rabbi

Selection committee looking for candidate to replace Rabbi Ya’acov Rakovsky who died after decades in the job.

YA’ACOV RAKOVSKY 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Hadassah)
(photo credit: Courtesy Hadassah)
A selection committee of the Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) in Jerusalem is due to decide “within a few days” who will be its next official rabbi.
The official rabbi is in charge of religious decisions and activities on the Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus campuses of the two Hadassah University Medical Centers. Ten rabbis have presented their candidacy.
The new rabbi is to replace the late Rabbi Ya’acov Rakovsky, who was the religious authority at HMO for decades.
The selection committee has interviewed the candidates, but HMO did not provide further information, except to say that the appointment would be announced “within a few days.”
The decision is not simple, as the rabbi of the two campuses – with a total of 1,000 hospital beds – has much influence on kashrut policies, the declaration of clinical death, organ donation, autopsies, delivery room practices and other decisions relating to patients.
HMO did not provide a list of the candidates or their affiliation, but a struggle is taking place between the haredi and the Zionist/national religious sector.
Within the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America – owners of the medical centers – there is opposition among the national-religious sector to the appointment of a non-Zionist or even anti-Zionist rabbi who could alienate supporters and make decisions that would upset the general public.
Years ago, for example, numerous secular and modern Orthodox women who thought of giving birth at the competing Shaare Zedek Medical Center decided not to because the hospital’s Eda Haredit rabbi refused to allow husbands to be in delivery rooms with their wives. A more flexible rabbi who later replaced him allowed husbands to be present. (According to Halacha, a husband is not allowed to see his wife’s blood emerging with the baby during delivery. He is allowed to be in the room, but must look on from a “more modest” vantage point.) HMO is eager to court haredi families, as its has had some conflict with the community. The tension was caused due to its disclosure over two years ago that a haredi woman nearly caused her small child to die as she suffered from Munchausen-by-proxy and secretly prevented him from eating and being treated properly. The mother was jailed by the courts and kept from her children for some time.
This action led to a proclaimed haredi boycott of Hadassah medical centers that was largely ignored by the community. Since haredi babies comprise a major portion of newborns in the Jerusalem area and the National Insurance Institute pays for each birth rather than the health funds paying a smaller per-diem fee, haredi dissatisfaction would mean a major loss of income to HMO.
A large anonymous advertisement was placed by the “Committee for a Zionist Rabbi at Hadassah” in The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. Its aim, to “Keep Hadassah Zionist.” The ad stated that “an ultra-Orthodox (haredi) rabbi is being considered for the post of the head rabbi of Hadassah Medical Center[s].
“For 100 years, Hadassah... has thrived as the world’s largest Zionist body – especially through its magnificent healing of the people of Israel.
“We support Hadassah’s mission to provide professional and compassionate medical care to all elements of Israeli society and their respective communities.”
The ad continued that “we feel strongly that Hadassah avoid election to this official position a rabbi who solely serves the need of narrow interests groups and fails to personally represent an inclusive Zionist perspective.”
The timing of the ad ensures that so it will come to the attention of the 1,500 HWZOA members and supporters who are currently in Jerusalem to celebrate the women’s organization’s centenary and dedicate the new $363 million hospitalization tower.