Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rabbi Amar Finally Puts His Foot Down: "I am exercising my power... to personally choose panels of judges that will rule on conversion cases."


It's about dang time.

Rabbi Amar should have nipped this in the bud a long time ago. Rabbi Amar tried to assure converts that they were OK, that everything would be fine and their conversions would be safe--two months too late after Sherman's original decision--but after that, Rabbi Amar remained silent. Nothing much was said, and less was done.

Perhaps there was a lot done quietly and discretely, but that isn't what the public needed. The public needed to hear from Amar exactly what was being done, and those things needed to be clearly stated.

Instead of giving people reassurance, those who had converted and/or were anticipating conversion were plunged into greater and greater levels of fear as Sherman and his lackeys seemed to grow more powerful and more influential, and Rabbi Amar seemed to disappear into the wallpaper.

But that was Sherman attacking Rabbi Druckman, and I the rabbinate weren't willing to step up for Rabbi Druckman (even though I can't imagine a better person to stand up for--a true Zionist, a well educated Rabbi, and a leader in every respect).

Now, however, Sherman crossed the line. With is latest outrageous ruling, Sherman has attempted to undermine Rabbi Amar (who is in charge of conversion) and infer that all of Israel should follow the direction of one Lituanian Haredi Rabbi--Rabbi Avraham Elyashiv--on conversion, marriage, and divorce.

While I will defend the right of Rabbi Elyashiv to follow Jewish tradition his own way and teach is followers to follow it that way--I will also defend all other religious Jews who are following the traditions of their family and their community and their rabbis to live and teach in the way that feel is best.

Sherman's latest opinion not only undermines the position of the Chief Sephardic Rabbi, he undermines the position of any religious Jew who doesn't follow Rabbi Elyashiv. Sherman showed himself to be completely out of bounds and must have his position cancelled immediately, his opinions revoked, and his power annuled.

I am so happy Rabbi Amar is finally putting his foot down. I just wish he had done this a lot sooner. Now, there is a lot of repair that must be done for the damage Sherman has caused and the distrust he has sewn.

Jun 25, 2009 23:03 | Updated Jun 26, 2009 0:00
Amar moves to bar controversial rabbinic judge from conversion cases

In a move that pits him against the haredi rabbinical establishment and endears him to thousands of converts to Judaism, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar issued a written order that effectively bars a controversial haredi rabbinical judge from adjudicating in conversion cases.

"Recently, conversion cases have become the focus of public scrutiny," wrote Amar in a letter to Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Dahan, administrative head of the Rabbinical Courts. "Groups have taken advantage of the controversy surrounding these cases to attempt to limit the jurisdiction of the Rabbinical Courts. As a result, I am exercising my power... to personally choose panels of judges that will rule on conversion cases."

Amar's directive would allow him to remove from a conversion case any judge - but it is seen as being directed, in particular, at Rabbi Avraham Sherman, a judge on the High Rabbinical Court who one week ago issued his second highly controversial halachic opinion on a divorce case involving a woman who converted to Judaism.

As in his previous ruling of more than a year ago, Sherman questioned not only the validity of the woman in the divorce case but also all contemporary Orthodox conversions - especially those performed by the National Conversion Authority, which is under Amar's supervision - and called to protect the purity of the Jewish people from "invasion" by gentiles undergoing "bogus" conversion ceremonies. In addition, Sherman declared that only the haredi rabbinical establishment was qualified to adjudicate on conversion matters; Sherman did not mention Amar as part of this "legitimate" rabbinical establishment.

In the wake of the publication of Sherman's opinion, Amar came under pressure to clarify his stand, said a senior source in the Rabbinical Court Administration.

"Rabbi Amar could not simply remain quiet any longer," said the source. "Sherman's opinion basically undermined Rabbi Amar's authority. He had to do something."

Amar's spokesman denied that the new directive was aimed against Sherman.

"Nowhere in the letter is Sherman mentioned," said the spokesman.

Amar's attempt, through his spokesman, to play down the sidelining of Sherman is in accordance with the non-confrontational style that has characterized his leadership style since he took office as chief rabbi more than five years ago.

However, a representative of the haredi rabbinical establishment rejected Amar's spokesman's attempts to sidestep a direct confrontation and vowed that Amar would be "punished" for coming out against Sherman.

Rabbi Nahum Eisenstein, who is closely aligned with Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, considered the preeminent halachic authority of Ashkenazi haredi Jewry, said in response: "If reports regarding Amar's letter are true, our rabbis will come out with a very serious reaction. Rabbi Amar has crossed a red line and he is directly undermining the halachic validity of conversions in Israel."

Meanwhile, in a meeting with Absorption Minister Sofa Landver on Wednesday, Amar reiterated his commitment to recognize all conversions performed by the Conversion Authority, according to Landver's spokesman.

Landver voiced her concern that Sherman's attack on the Conversion Authority would discourage potential converts from converting.

"No one will be willing to go through the trouble of converting if there is a real fear that, sometime down the road, the conversion will simply be annulled," she said.

According to data presented to Amar by Landver, there are 320,000 . . . [MORE]

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