Press Release

IDI Scholar Responds to Chief Rabbinate’s Blacklist

In response to a “blacklist” of some 160 rabbis, whose efforts to confirm the Jewish identities of immigrants were rejected by Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate, the Israel Democracy Institute’s Yair Sheleg said:

“The obstacles being placed by the Chief Rabbinate on the recognition of overseas rabbis highlight the need to reform the Rabbinate and the harm the Rabbinate inflicts upon the entire Jewish people."

Sheleg, director of IDI’s Religion and State program, said that rather than making it easier for Jews around the world, and helping young people feel connected to the State of Israel, the Rabbinate operates in a manner that pushes Jews away and leads to antagonism toward Judaism and Israel.

“With all due respect to the Chief Rabbinate, there is no justification for preemptively disqualifying all rabbis and approving only those who have proven themselves to be ‘kosher,’” said Sheleg. “In contrast to the rabbinate's current modus operandi, marriages and conversions should be considered valid unless information comes to light that raises reasonable doubts about their status. Further, any decision regarding the legitimacy of a marriage or conversion should only be based on the relevant rabbi's conduct and whether it's halachically acceptable or problematic. No aspect of a rabbi's personal identity or his/her membership in a denomination should be of consequence.”

Sheleg said the recent publication of a list of blacklisted rabbis and criteria for kosher rabbis reinforces the need to open the institutions of marriage and divorce to other options besides the Chief Rabbinate, which currently has a monopoly on such events. He said the Israeli government should pass a civil union law that would make it easier for Israelis to get married as they see fit, and have their nuptials recognized by the state in an egalitarian manner.

The blacklist contained the names of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis from 24 countries, including the US and Canada. It was obtained by Itim. On Wednesday, the Chief Rabbinate said the list of foreign rabbis has been misconstrued, and that the list does not imply that those rabbis cannot be trusted to vouch for the Jewish identities of their followers.