Eretz Yisrael Time

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Jameel feels that I didn’t make myself clear enough when explaining the reasoning behind the Galus Rabbi Certification in my comments on the previous post, so I decided to make an entire posting about it.

Let me start with an analogy.

These days (actually for around the past decade) if an Oleh wants an Israeli driver’s license and already has a foreign one he is now required to take a driving test - but it didn’t used to be that way.

After a noteworthy number of Olim came over from a particular region, the DMV finally realized that a rather significant number of them were showing the DMV fake driver’s licenses (and somehow almost everyone was an engineer or doctor! :)

People with no driving experience (or valid licenses) were getting valid licenses in Israel with fake ids!

Not having access to foreign records, or an easy/quick method of determining which licenses where actually genuine (many of the fakes were printed on the same machines as the genuine articles, just so you understand the extent of the problem), the DMV made a decision that all Olim that present a preexisting license must take a driving test.

Not fair to the other Oleh groups that wouldn’t pull that trick, but no one was going to profile a specific Oleh group and say only they had to take the test despite showing a license.

Moving on, any Oleh that has gone through the Rabbinate and Misrad Hapnim knows that when it comes to foreign documentation they just don’t know how to handle it.

It’s not that there is a specific problem with the documents, or that the clerks aren’t particularly bright, it’s just that there are so many potential formats, and so many types of documents, not to mention no one really knows who anyone is (and I’m not even discussing forgeries). Some Rabbi signed the Get? Well who is he? How do we even know he’s a Rabbi, or if it was done properly (or if he/it is even real)?

Everywhere in the world marriages (and divorces) are registered by the government. And just like everywhere in the world (especially when foreigners are involved) there is a lot of paperwork (even in the U.S.). It’s a bureaucracy. Period.

This new rule will make it much easier for the potential Oleh to go through the various processes he needs to go through when making Aliyah and getting married. With standardized paperwork, and authorized (recognized) processors (the Galus Rabbis), unrecognized, unfamiliar, and unacceptable paperwork will eventually be a thing of the past (or at least a rarity).

Is this a power grab?

Let me ask you.

If you were a potential Ger who wanted to come to Israel. Would you rather go to an authorized/certified Rabbi so that when you make Aliyah the process has its bumps minimized, or would you rather come to Israel and spend a year or two trying to prove that you are Jewish because no one ever heard of this Rabbi from Kalamazoo?

And if you were a Rabbi, wouldn’t you want to be certified, knowing that if you give a Get to someone, if they decided to make Aliya (to Israel, the country with the largest Jewish population) they could quickly get on with their life there without a hassle?

Eretz Yisrael is being revitalized in its role as part of the nucleus of Judaism, and Rav Amar is trying to smooth out a lot of the more serious problems that have up to now existed in the bureaucratic process. He’s doing this the same way Microsoft, Sun and John Bryce do it: Standardization, Authorization, and Certification (respectively).

Is that a power grab?

No. It’s simply inevitable.

Oh, and that it expands the Orthodox Torah-based monopoly on conversions, marriage and divorce beyond the borders of Israel? Well, that’s just an added bonus.


Yoel.Ben-Avraham said...

Oh, and that it expands the Orthodox Torah-based monopoly on conversions, marriage and divorce beyond the borders of Israel?

Beg to differ ... to those community & spitritual leaders who care about the unity of the Jewish People, the ability of two Jews who live in Israel to marry regardless of where they came from in the world, it will be welcomed.

To those who's only interest is in their little fiefdom or promoting their sectarial ideologies ...

westbankmama said...

The problem is not trying to impose standards, the problem is not recognizing standards that are already above reproach because of a desire to garner power. Orthodox rabbis in Israel looking down their noses at Orthodox rabbis in chut l'aretz has nothing to do with halacha, and crowing about Israel now being the center of power is ridiculous - especially when it will cause gerim to suffer.

JoeSettler said...

wbmm: Jameel used an example of University degrees. There are plenty of universities out there, some have names that are recognized off the bat, and some, well the only people that seem to know about them are our esteemed Knesset members and Police officers.

If you came to Israel to Israel and got a job as a civil servant (where the pay is commensurate to your education) wouldn't you want to be sure that your degree is recognized and recognizable. And if you were Israel wouldn't you want to make sure that the education you are paying someone a higher salary for was actually a real education?

(Of course when the Ministry of Education's refused to recognize Y.U. degrees a few months ago, it was more than a bit ridiculous on their part).

yoelba: I'm not sure what you were 'begging to differ', because you seemed to be agreeing with me.

Anonymous said...


This qoute taken from Todays JPost sums it up pretty well:

"You have to work hard to learn the subject. You have to travel a lot and meet with people in order to fully understand the complexities of Diaspora Jewry. The people working with Rabbi Amar simply lack the talent or the motivation or both to deal with it. So they are taking the easy way out by disqualifying everybody."

Son of Deer

JoeSettler said...

SoD: That anonymous Galus Rabbi actually began his comment with, "It is tough, complex work dealing with dozens of rabbinic conversion courts all over the world,"

But doesn’t that just perfectly describe the exact problem that Rav Amar is trying to fix?

There are so many formats, so many nuances, so many people, so many courts, so many personalities, that creating certification and standardization would resolve a lot of the problems that currently exists.

But it all comes down to perspective.

The Galus Rabbis see this as an affront to their authority and independence, while Rav Amar see this as a solution to a serious problem that will not go away.

The Galus Rabbis, who admittedly aren’t cooperating (yet) will obviously blame Rav Amar’s staff as lacking the talent or motivation.

There are three ways of creating standardizations:

1. Have a monopoly or control the market and then you set the standard.
2. Create confusion in the market so that everyone wants to be 'certified' (hopefully) by you to bypass the confusion (you created).
3. Create a consensus committee which will eventually down the road agree on some standards that hardly look like what you were after originally.

Israel is in position 1, because it is our bureaucracies that will demand it, just like U.S. Kashrut organizations send their own mashgichim to Israel because US Jews tend to only recognize certifications with circles around them (and that is their monopoly).

Anonymous said...

Actually I would say that Amar and gang resemble more option 2. True, they will get their way because the galus Rabbis are not familar with the rudeness and threats so common in Israel society. The galus rabbis think along the line of to qoute Rodney King- "Can't we all get along"? and have a wish for achdut. OR is that achdus?

Rav Amar comes along and says, "You know what? All the previous chief rabbis were wrong and they were accepting non- jews as Jews. I know better then them."

I'd stick with the previous chief rabbis, who knew and respected torah authorities. Leave the dictation at the door. Respect orthodox Judaism anywhere.

Son of Deer

JoeSettler said...

SoD: I sincerely wonder if you will simply take a contrarian position to anything I'll say on any topic, or if it just seems that way. Maybe I'll test it another time. At first I was going to answer your statements but I've decided on a different tact instead.

Imagine 2 years from now...

Two potential Olim make Aliya. One converted with a certified RCA Rabbi and one converted with an uncertified RCA Rabbi.

The certified convert breezes through the Aliyah process because all the requested documentation is already in the computer and preapproved so she gets an immediate green light and Teudat Oleh.

The uncertified convert goes through the same exact archaic, disorganized, awful process that converts went through 2 years before. The documents must be examined, the identity of the Rabbis and witnesses must be confirmed, and as it happens, the format of the his particular document is a little different than usual, and no one is sure who that specific signature belongs to. The process drags on.

Nothing at all malicious (or even unusual) is intended towards the second applicant, but he simply chose to go through an archaic, awful, inefficient process which has been 95% phased out because it was so bad, and was replaced with the Amar process that is quick, efficient and relatively painless.

Unfortunately, you will still ascribe malicious intents towards the Chief Rabbi, so the scenario is wasted on you.

Jack Steiner said...


It just doesn't work for me. Lack of awareness of the scholarship of a particular rav is not indicative of how good or bad they are.

It is not an accurate measure.

Anonymous said...


Come on now. Your are really stretching reality. It would be nice to steamline. But there is a way to change things. And a "political appointment postion" (not one chosen but the sanhedrin for example) does not allow to declare one day that the State of Israel no longer accepts anyone from Galut, unless they pass my test.

Amar's troops should have given the respect to diapora Jews the respect they deserve. Face to face meetings and conference calls should have taken place before this declaration.

The way it was done was to show off power. And that is simply wrong.


JoeSettler said...

Jack: I never said anything about scholarship, though to do a proper Get is definitely not the simplest thing in the world. This is about recognition of an individual by the system.

JoeSettler said...


Like I said, the scenario was wasted on you....

But actually the State can and does do that.

The State decides if it recognizes foreign doctors and lawyers and teachers and engineers and even makes them take tests if they want to practice in Israel.

In certain cases, if you are in the US and want to present notarized documents to Israel that are acceptable to the system here, you can only go to the Israeli consulate for their notarization - a US notary is 100% not acceptable.

So why is a Rabbi who is offering a service that interacts with the State any different, particularly an interaction that is proving to be very difficult to deal with because there is no standardization?

JoeSettler said...

This is not a new initiative (it's a year old already), but it apparently is coming to a head now for whatever reason.

As the Rabbi in the JPost article said there are dozens of conversion courts. Well that's might just be in New York alone, and while the RCA is the largest(?) organization of Rabbis it is hardly the only one, nor does it actually have any enforceable powers that I am aware of (except perhaps to cancel your subscription to their magazine) - someone feel free to correct me if you know otherwise.

And apparently Rav Amar did succeed in getting the message out, because 50 Rabbis are already recognized which obviously did require face-to-face meetings.

Perhaps the Galus Rabbis are simply afraid of what this means to their self-perceived status as opposed to the benefits to their congregants?

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