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Jun 27, 2018

Rabbanut gets a dose of its own medicine

As a follow-up to yesterday's brouhaha with the Barkan Winery transferring three Jewish religious employees of Ethiopian origin after the Eida hechsher demanded they do so, Tempo - the parent company of Barkan Winery - has announced last night that it will not accept any form of discrimination and the  transferred Ethiopian employees will be put back, on Wednesday, on the line in their original positions.

Tempo qualified the statement by adding a note that if any employee would be moved from his position, his livelihood would not be harmed.
source: Ynet, Kikar

So, does the qualification means that they wont transfer anybody, but if they do it wont affect the salary - meaning, the transfer may very well stay in effect?

Also, as of this morning, the news reported that the affected employees had not been put back in their previous positions. I have not heard or seen any update since, so I do not know if they were returned to their original positions later in the day, or not.

My biggest question is how Tempo can make such a statement. The transfer happened because of a demand made by the Eida, their newly taken on hechsher organization. Does this mean they have persuaded Eida to accept the Ethiopians in these positions and the Eida agreed? Does it mean they are dropping the Eida as their certifying agency? If the statement made by Tempo is truthful, it has major ramifications, and I would be curious to know how this is working.

On another aspect of this, the Eida, with this demand, is really just doing to the Rabbanut almost exactly what the Rabbanut does to so many other Jews and Jewish converts. The Eida is calling into question the status of converts of the Rabbanut, and the Jewish status of people declared Jewish by the Rabbanut. How many times have we seen the Rabbanut call into question the status of converts who converted by orthodox batei din around the world? They don't seem to like it now.

I argue the same point now, even though it now defends the Rabbanut - as soon as an Orthodox beis din converts someone, that person is Jewish. That is the halacha, in Shulchan Aruch. Even if the beis din did it with ulterior motives, and even if the beis din did it despite the convert converting for marriage or money or other ulterior motives that would have invalidated them - once it is done, the convert is fully Jewish. Whatever the Eida might say, these people are Jewish. If there is a specific problem with a specific person whose background is questionable and did not undergo the conversion lchumra, that might be another story, but in general they are Jewish. When the Rabbanut rejects a convert from an orthodox beis din somewhere in the Diaspora, that convert is still Jewish, even if unrecognized by the Rabbanut. Perhaps the Rabbanut might be spurred to work on formulating a new policy on this issue, now that it sees how its own converts can be treated by such a policy.

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  1. Well said, Rafi!


  2. Without getting too involved in this present sad controversy it is worth noting that
    "The notion that a conversion could be annulled after the fact.. is found on occasion and R. Baruch cites some authorities who speak about this very point. Thus, it is not, as has often been alleged, a modern [haredi] idea with no historical basis although, as mentioned, it was very rare"

  3. I am not agreeing with the Eidah's approach to this matter, but seems that there is a basic misunderstanding of what the Eidah says they were doing. They were not rejecting all Ethiopians as being non-Jewish or even as being safek Jews. They said that they had specific doubts about certain individual Ethiopians and they thought it would be more sensitive and less embarrassing to not allow attention to be focused on those individuals so they decided to not allow even 100% unquestionably Jewish Ethiopians. That is not the same as what the Eidah is being accused of. Clearly the Eidah misjudged the optics and reaction to their plan, but that is what they are claiming was their intent.


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