Court documents submitted by the Chief Rabbinate describe how the body investigates Diaspora rabbis, including Orthodox rabbis, to determine if it will accept their letters of Jewish status affirmation for former congregants.The description outlined by the Chief Rabbinate lawyers would seem to contradict the claims of the Chief Rabbinate itself that the recent list of 160 rabbis whose letters were rejected reflects not a rejection of the rabbi himself but rather a problem with the specific case. The documents, obtained by The Jerusalem Post, were filed by the Chief Rabbinate to the Jerusalem District Court in December 2015 in response to a freedom-of-information request by the ITIM organization which has fought to compel the Chief Rabbinate to formulate transparent criteria for accepting or rejecting the credentials of Diaspora rabbis.The explanation of the Chief Rabbinate’s lawyers reads: “The checks which the respondent [the Chief Rabbinate] conducts into the rabbi whose affirmation letter was presented are whether that rabbi does indeed serve as a rabbi of an Orthodox congregation, a check into his qualifications as a rabbi and the level of his commitment to Jewish law, all of which is done in order to ensure that it is possible to rely on his letters affirming Jewish status.”
Following the release of the list of the 160 rabbis whose letters were rejected, the Chief Rabbinate, and Chief Rabbi Lau in particular, claimed that the letters were rejected for various reasons and did not necessarily mean that the rabbi’s credentials had been rejected.“The list [of rabbis] represents affirmation letters which were not recognized by the [Personal Status] Department and does not relate to rabbis,” the Chief Rabbinate said in an official response to the release of the list.The arguments presented by the Chief Rabbinate to the court would imply that all rabbis, including Orthodox ones, are investigated by the Chief Rabbinate to verify their “commitment to Jewish law.”The Chief Rabbinate has not yet formally responded to these claims. A source in the Chief Rabbinate did acknowledge off the record however that in it is likely that in some instances it was the credentials of some Orthodox rabbis which were rejected, and that these rejections were not due to a problem with the case itself.ITIM director Rabbi Seth Farber has demanded to know why the Chief Rabbinate’s officials made no effort to contact the rabbis whose letters it rejected, if there was no concern with the rabbis’ credentials.The Chief Rabbinate has not yet formally responded to these claims. A source in the Chief Rabbinate did acknowledge however that in some instances it was the credentials of some Orthodox rabbis which were rejected, and that these rejections were not due to a problem with the case itself.
Live interview with Rabbi Seth Farber on the Chief Rabbinate"s "blacklist" of Diaspora rabbis, July 13, 2017.