Sanhedrin? What Sanhedrin?

In the modern Jewish world, disagreement is to be expected, and consensus is hard to come by. But when it comes to the re-formed Sanhedrin, the various religious groups, from the Reform Movement to haredim, seem unified in their lack of enthusiasm for the initiative, albeit for different reasons. "With respect to the rabbis that sit on the so-called Sanhedrin, we can find the decisions compelling, but they have no authority," says Rabbi Barry Schlesinger president of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement's Rabbinic Assembly in Israel, referring to the movement's exclusion from the judicial body. "I would love it if Conservative and Reform rabbis were included." "If they are doing things targeted at one branch of the Jewish people, then it will be for that community, not for everyone," adds Donald Cohen Cutler, press secretary of the Union for Reform Judaism. Not surprisingly, religious movements presently excluded from the new Sanhedrin want to be represented before they will grant the institution legitimacy. "It's [the new Sanhedrin] probably going to be an Orthodox thing or nothing at all," says Rabbi Sam Kassim, director of the Shehebar Sephardi Center in Jerusalem. The Reform and Conservative movements may also be concerned with their lack of representation because if a Sanhedrin were to gain legitimacy, it could pose a threat to their autonomy. "Would I like to live in an Israel that has a functioning Third Temple? No, I wouldn't," says Rabbi Michael Marmur, dean of Hebrew Union College, referring to his belief that the Sanhedrin is attempting to build the Third Temple. "If it [the new Sanhedrin] becomes bigger, then I might have something to say," he adds. The majority of Orthodox groups interviewed were not familiar with the new Sanhedrin. Those that were, weren't as openly opposed as the Reform and Conservative movements. "I don't really know much about it," says Rabbi Sholom Brodt of Yeshiva Simhat Shlomo. "The OU has not taken an official position [on the new Sanhedrin]," says Rabbi Avi Berman, spokesman for the Orthodox Union. "The haredim won't want anything to do with it," Kassim predicts, because the various sects are too territorial. "I don't have a real, informed opinion [on the new Sanhedrin]," says Rabbi Ian Pear of the modern Orthodox synagogue Shir Hadash in Baka. "I have a few views here and there, but nothing specific." "There is no such group," says MK Avraham Ravitz (UTJ) adding that even if such a group exists, it won't be taken seriously. "Most people are apprehensive about it, but I go for it," Kassim says. "I think it is a step in the right direction." "Of course I have an interest in finding out more," adds Brodt. "That's what I am praying for [during the thrice-daily Amida prayer which refers to the restoration of the Temple and the judicial bodies]."