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Oct 18, 2007

destruction of rabbanut is almost complete

The Haredim have systematically been taking over the Israeli Rabbanut (Chief Rabbinate). Almost all new jobs open, be it in dayanus, mashgiach supervision, Rabbis, etc., have been going to Haredi applicants. This has been happening for a few years now, as the Haredi influence in the Rabbanut sphere has increased.

A prime example of this is how Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger was chosen. While his background is one of having studied in National Religious yeshivot, over the years he has become very close with Rav Elyashiv. His whole candidacy was pushed by Rav Elyashiv and his main contender at the time was Rav Ariel (Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan) who is a major figure in the National Zionist Rabbinate. Rabbi Metzger won the position with the help of Rav Elyashiv's pressure on the system.

The same is happening in many realms within the Rabbinate. The majority of jobs are going to Haredi candidates. They apply for these jobs because they pay decently and there is little else for many of these people to do. They are not trained for work after many years in yeshiva, so they become a mashgiach (for example) after a short course and then get a job in the Rabbanut.

The thing is that most of these people, and the Haredi public in general, do not rely on Rabbanut as a Rabbinic body. They will not rely on it for kashrut, because the Rabbanut uses lighter standards in its kashrut supervision (as it is making kashrut for the masses). They will generally not use the Rabbanut battei din, will not get married under the authority of the Rabbanut, etc., rather are using the services of the various stricter authorities, such as Badat"z and the like.

So they are taking over the Rabbanut but do not trust and use its services.

The National Religious, the natural public who always used the services of the Rabbanut, are starting to move away and form their own organizations. They are disturbed by the apparent takeover by the Haredim. They are disturbed by the changes in policy that make the Rabbanut follow stricter standards, which make it difficult on the general public to follow them.

An example of this is the recent debacle regarding shmitta and the use of the hetter mechira produce. The Rabbanut always allowed the use of Hetter mechira produce, while the haredi public eschewed such produce and during shmitta even stayed away from the Rabbanut more than usual because of it. The claim is that this food is not at all kosher and therefore in such instances the Rabbanut must be completely avoided (not just being lenient and I prefer to be more stringent - in this case it is not kosher at all).

Now that the Rabbanut has become more Haredi, the Rabbanut has decided while it generally accepts hetter mechira produce as kosher, each local authority would have the right to choose and set its own policy regarding hetter mechira. So we have a situation in which Rabbanuts in areas with few religious people who care are rejecting the use of hetter mechira. A result of this is many people in those areas are eating non-kosher. The restaurants refuse to pay the extra expense of non-hetter mechira produce, so they prefer to not get kosher supervision and then they buy whatever they want, unsupervised, and who knows what is happening and what produce, or meats, are being used.

As a result of this, last week we read in the news about a large group of Zionist Rabbis who are leaving the Rabbanut and setting up their own alternative organization to offer kashrut and other services.

Another example of this was announced today. The Rabbanut over the past two years has made conversion requirements much stricter, and has even come to loggerheads with Rabbinic organizations abroad over their standards (such as the RCA) and has even refused to accept conversions performed by them.

A group of 45 Zionist Rabbis has decided to set up their own alternative court for deciding on conversions. They will use more relaxed standards, as they claim that the standards have become increasingly strict and make it very difficult for very many people.

So the Haredim never relied on the Rabbanut and now the Zionist Rabbis are abandoning the Rabbanut.

The general public has always relied on the Rabbanut because they provided the services that were required without making life too difficult for them. The Rabbanut was really there to make kashrut and Judaism available for people who otherwise would likely not bother. The used relaxed standards, but they did so as a way of helping millions of Jews eat kosher food, when they would not if it was too difficult or expensive. They used relaxed standards when it came to everything, because they were dealing with a large public who otherwise would not look for an alternative. The place of the Rabbanut was, and remains, very important for the general public.

The general public however is become increasingly disenfranchised with the Rabbanut. As the haredi Rabbis take over more and more within the Rabbanut and the standards are being raised and made stricter in various aspects, many people are deciding to forgo the whole thing.

An example of this is Hertzliya. Because the local Rabbanut in Hertzliya decided to not accept hetter mechira produce, many stores and restaurants elected to drop their kashrut supervision completely. They prefer to eat non-kosher rather than go through the extra expense of stricter supervision. The job of the Rabbanut was always specifically for these people precisely. It was for those who would otherwise not eat kosher, but now will because the Rabbanut makes it accessible and reasonably priced.

So the Haredi public avoids the Rabbanut, the Zionist public is beginning to abandon the Rabbanut, and the general public is abandoning the Rabbanut.

I have friends in the National Religious community who have told me that this was precisely the goal of the Haredim when taking over the Rabbanut. They say the whole purpose was to destroy the Rabbanut and render it irrelevant.

That is a bit too conspiratorial for me to accept completely, but it might have some truth to it.

The destruction of the Rabbanut is almost complete. Soon there will be serious clashes between the various organizations sprouting up to fill the void the Rabbanut is creating. The confusion will be great, as people will not know what standards the various organizations are adhering to.

This can only be bad for klal yisrael.


  1. dThe one redeeming factor that the Rabbanut has that it is solely responsible for marriages and divources in this country this is a very good thing by having one cetral organization this avoids problems of mazarim and the like. Even if one is married by the Eda Haradis they still must register with the rabbunut. The Zohars rabbis who perform weddings also do it thru the rabbanut. There is also a big issue of conversions these days this also can not be taken away from the rabbanut. By loosening the standards for conversions we are not being fair to the ger who does not realize that in certain circles his conversion would not be acceptable. I think that the rabbanut should be strengthend and not weakened.
    Rav Elishiv until he was able to receive a pension was part of the betei din of the rabbunut as well so he must of have held from the Rabbunut or he would not have worked for them.

  2. I find it a bit difficult to believe that the Haredi takeover of the Rabbanut was really a long-term plan to destroy the Rabbanut, since if the Rabbanut eventually disolves completely, there will be a lot of hareidim who previously found work as mashgichim, etc., now out of work.

    Unless, of course, that this was one of the goals: to make sure that as few as possible haredim work at all.

  3. yoni - I agree. it is hard to believe that it was long planned. It could be that it was not planned but every noticed opportunity is jumped at. Or maybe it is not true at all. I do not know, but I do know that is what they feel is happening. A very serious example of that is the election of Rav Metzger. I do not want to badmouth him, and I have really nothing to say about him good or bad, but he is considered by most people highl;y underqualified for the position he has. He did not come from the Rabbinate before, he is not a dayan and has little experience. check out his resume. It is nothing like the resume of any Chief Rabbi before him.

    Many say he was pushed into the position as a way of bringing down the Rabbanut.

    Again, I do not know if it is true, but it is at least an impression people have.

    anonymous - Rav Elyashiv, if I remember correctly, left the Rabbanut during the brouhaha over Rav Goren's psak regarding the famous mamzer case.

  4. I am not sure why Rav Elishiv left the rabbanut but he was there long enough that he lives off the pension that he received from them. The exact reason that he left is unimportant although I wondered if he would of left before he was going to receive a pension. I would hope that Rav Elishiv would not work in a place that he did not hold of. Again I feel it is very important that the Rabbunut does not get underminded because they serve a very important need. I never heard Rav Mordechai Eliyu or Rav Avraham Shapiro speak poorly of the rabbanut.

    Kol tov,


    PS Mazel tov on your new baby girl

  5. rafi

    it's not just the restaurants that are "leaving". many frum people are being chased away by this behavior as well. even if they remain outwardly religious, they privatley change their behavior to reflect their disgust or disenchantment with the "orthodox or frum" world because of these types of behaviors. right or wrong, it's happening all over the world. There are so many frum jews who are simply sick of the apparent control issues that the "gedolim - or at least their askanim" have that they become not so frum in their private lives.

    that's the worst part of this story.

  6. I do have thoughts on this matter. However the danger of saying bad things about Torah scholars, shich is a very serious sin, is too great, and sometimes it's just better to stay quiet.

  7. Rafi-
    What's this famous mamzer case?
    Solly G.

  8. Anon--
    Regarding conversions: There are many sincere candidates for conversion who are being run around for years. There is such a thing as making conversion criteria too difficult.

  9. why is this bad for klal yisrael? I think that the greater the implosion of Rabbi fighting rabbi, the more virulent and honest the hatred is between these minor opposing groups, the clearer it will be to the vast majority of jews what a farce is the system.

  10. anon solly - I do not remember all the details, and you can do a search on google, but there was a famous case in which there was an adulterous relationship resulting in a child. The beis din paskened the kid was a mamzer. Rav Goren decided to argue on the beis din and said the father, who was a convert, was falsely converted as he had not actually accepted the mitzvos. He therefore declared the child to not be a mamzer and therefore allowed to marry.

    Dan - I've got nothing.


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