In the wake of the advancement of the giyur reform plan and after Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana announced the dismissal of the head of the Giyur Authority, Chief Rabbi Rav Dovid Lau threatened to paralyze the giyur system.
Kahana had said he was dismissing the head of the Giyur Authority, Rav Moshe Weller, who was appointed by Rav Lau, due to his refusal to his advance the giyur reform, in line with Rav Lau’s opposition to the reform.
Rav Lau sent a letter to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in which he wrote: “This is precisely the role of the head of the Giyur Authority – the implementation of the halachic guidelines of the Nasi of the Beis Din HaGadol [a position currently filled by HaRav Lau.] The giyur process is a halachic procedure and the obligation of HaRav Weller as head of the system is to ensure the observance of the halachic guidelines established by the Chief Rabbis of Israel for generations.”
Rav Lau continued by writing that the removal of HaRav Weller from his position “will severely impair the functioning of the Giyur Authority. He is currently leading, at my instructions, among others, the giyur process of Bnei Menashe and of Ethiopian olim as well as the giyur process of students at state-religious schools who are fulfilling the program as part of their studies.”
Rav Lau added: “The proposed giyur outline will cause a significant rift in Am Yisrael that will be irreparable. Its implementation will cause a split in the Jewish nation, which will have to grapple in the future with the difficult question of ‘Who is a Jew?’ and ‘Whom can I marry and whom, chas v’chalilah, can I not?’ – a terrible situation of two states, two nations – a divided Yahadus instead of a united Yahadus.”
Rav Lau ended the letter with an explicit threat to Bennett that since the dismissal of the head of the Giyur Authority will paralyze the system and giyur candidates will not have an address to turn to, they will turn to him instead. “If the giyur plan is advanced and the head of the Giyur Authority is dismissed, I will be forced to remove my responsibility from everything regarding the giyur system and I will immediately stop approving its giyur certificates.”
According to a Channel 13 News report, Rav Lau had already issued instructions to cease ongoing giyur processes and has notified Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata of his decision. Tamano-Shata, who herself is an Ethiopian immigrant, is expected to fiercely oppose Rav Lau’s measure. The report added that 100 giyur certificates are currently on Rav Lau’s desk but he is refusing to sign them.
In the wake of reports about Rav Lau’s letter, members of the coalition slammed the Chief Rabbi, with Kahana saying: “The Chief Rabbi’s intention to cease giyur in Israel ‘only due to the failure to extend the position of a clerk” is regretful. This will harm Ethiopian olim, soldiers who are seeking to convert and thousands of additional people seeking to convert.”
Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu’s party issued a statement calling for Rav Lau to be fired. “The attempt to turn converts into hostages of the Chareidi establishment which has seized control of the Rabbanut as well as the threats of the Chief Rabbi toward the minister appointed over him – crosses a red line and is in complete violation of accepted practice. We call on the Religious Affairs Minister to immediately dismiss the Chief Rabbi and and to summon him to a disciplinary hearing like any other public servant.”
Communications Minister Yoaz Handel (New Hope) also called for Rav Lau to be fired, saying that a public servant who doesn’t comply with the government’s decisions shouldn’t remain in office.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)