Volume 29 Number 54
                 Produced: Sun Aug 15  7:46:05 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Israeli Rabbinate
         [Carl M. Sherer]
Religious Organizations Mandated to Control
         [Deborah Wenger]


From: Carl M. Sherer <csherer@...>
Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 11:42:02 +0300
Subject: Israeli Rabbinate

Whenever I read a paragraph like the one below, I start to think, "if 
only it were true that if the Rabbinate in Israel were a nicer bunch of 
people, 80% of the country would not be secular." But it isn't true - 
far from it. 

I will grant that the Rabbinate has been less effective than it might 
have been in teaching those who do not know and never have 
known about fruhmkeit. But to say that the Rabbinate has "turned 
off" thousands of "traditional" Jews (and I am defining traditional as 
those who are somewhat connected to Jewish tradition, and not as 
"Mesorati" as in the "Mesorati" (Conservative) Movement) is just 
plain not true.

Steve Bailey writes:

>  Here in Israel, the Rabbinate has succeeded in turning off thousands of
> "traditional" Jews 

The Rabbinate has not turned off thousands of "traditional" Jews.
Thousands of traditional Jews were forcefully torn from "traditional"
Judaism the moment they got off the Magic Carpet in the 1950's.  They
were torn away from their parents, had their peyos cut off, and were
sent to places like Degania and Degania Bet for "re- education." Today,
the new generation of the Labor Zionist movement no longer needs such
harsh methods. They no longer need to convince new olim that Judaism is
the religion of the Galus (exile). Seventy years of Russian Communism
took care of that for them.

If you came on aliya in the late 40's or the 50's, you either joined the
Labor Party and agreed to work on Shabbos, or you did not get a job. Not
only did you not get a job - you didn't get a place to live either. You
stayed in the Maabarot (tin shacks that were boiling hot in summer and
freezing cold in winter) until you joined the Labor Party and the
Histadrut. One of my neighbors spent YEARS in the Maabarot as a child
until his parents went and joined Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim (which is

So yes, there were traditional Jews who were torn away from fruhmkeit,
but not by the Rabbinate - by the secularist Laborites.

> because of their methods of religious coercion in
> areas not mandated by their government role. 

So you are suggesting that if the government does not require the
Rabbinate to play a part, then Torah shouldn't play a role in
determining the functioning of the Jewish State? Or are you suggesting
that Israel should not be a Jewish State?

And what "religious coercion" are you referring to here? (For those who
have not spent significant time in Israel, the term "religious coercion"
is a hot button used by the left wing secular parties like Shinui and
Meretz). Is anyone forcing these people to only eat in restaurants that
have been blessed by the Rabbinate? Is anyone telling them that they
have to sit in darkness in their homes on Shabbos? Is anyone standing
over them with a whip and chains telling them "keep Shabbos or else?"

> Thousands of secular
> Israelis are open to reason and meaning in Jewish ritual and practice,

Were that this were true. Thousands of secular Israelis don't have a
clue as to what Jewish ritual and practice are about because the secular
public schools in Israel teach them nothing about it other than to hate
it. I got more intelligent questions about Jewish ritual and practice,
that reflected a higher level of understanding of Jewish ritual and
practice, from my goyishe co-workers in New York than I did from many of
my Jewish co-workers in Tel Aviv.

There is a reason for that. To this day, the Israeli secular public
schools spend more time teaching Greek Culture, Roman Culture, Byzantine
Culture, Moslem Culture and so on than they do teaching kids anything
about Judaism. I once went on a trip to "explore different cultures"
organized by my then-employer (an Israeli government agency). The trip
took us to the Bahai Shrine, a mosque and a church, and they stopped at
Me'arat Eliyahu for five minutes for those who were interested. Oh yes,
and then we went to an artist's village where we were treated to a
lecture on how mistreated the Arabs are. Guess which stop on the tour
the guide DIDN'T talk about....

As far as the average kid in the average secular public school is
concerned, the history of the Jewish people is the history of the State
of Israel, and it begins somewhere around the First Zionist Congress. Is
it no wonder that five or six years ago, in a debate over the Oslo
Agreements, one of our politicians referred to the Tanach on the Knesset
floor as "an interesting history book which is irrelevant today?"

Which secular Israelis do you think are "open to reason" (whatever that
means) in Jewish law and practice? The secular Israelis who gave six
mandates to Shinui in the last election on a platform of "we won't go
into a coalition with the Charedim?" The secular Israelis who gave ten
mandates to Meretz in the last election on the basis of "we won't go
into a coalition with Shas?" THOSE secular Israelis aren't
traditional. THOSE secular Israelis have no interest and no will to even
consider doing ANYTHING that has to do with fruhmkeit. But it is those
secular Israelis you are using to "prove" that the Rabbinate is turning
off "traditional" Israelis.

> but are rejected by the rabbinic establishment who want to control their
> lives by insisting on ritual without attempting to make it reasonable to
> the non-observant, who would otherwise be open to compliance. 

How does one make ritual "reasonable?" Who is to define what is
"reasonable?" I will grant you that there are problems in the
presentation. For example, it is no secret that many of the Taharas
haMishpacha (family purity) classes that brides are required to take in
order to receive a marriage license from the Rabbinate leave much to be
desired. I agree that couples should be taught the underlying philosophy
behind Taharas haMishpacha, and not just straight, dry halacha. I agree
that COUPLES should be taught, and not just the women. But are you
suggesting that where "ritual" seems "unreasonable" to a couple, then
"ritual" must yield? Do you expect, for example, that the Rabbanut will
give its blessing to a divorcee marrying a Cohen, even if the Kiddushin
would technically be valid?

"Controlling" people's lives? I don't know of any Rabbinate inspectors
knocking on people's doors to make sure their home is Kosher or that
they are keeping Shabbos. No Rabbinate insepctor keeps score of who goes
to mikva after the wedding and who doesn't. So how is the Rabbinate
controlling anyone's lives?

> Halachic
> practice is critical in areas of marriage, divorce and kashrut, but the
> manner in which it is presented is just as crucial. The insensitivity
> causes hundreds of couples to avoid the Rabbinate by running to Cyprus
> to get married 

People running to Cyprus to get married has nothing to do with the
Rabbinate's "insensitivity." It has to do with the Rabbinate's refusal
to marry people who are not halachically permitted to marry (see the
divorcee marrying a Cohen example), and with people who would not want
to be married in a religious ceremony under ANY circumstances R"L. The
people who vote for Shinui and Meretz are the same people who run to
Cyprus to get married (and BTW a lot of them don't even have to do that
because there is a Latin American country - I forget which - that will
let them marry by proxy but it takes a little longer). Those people
aren't "traditional." Those people aren't being "turned off by the
Rabbinate." Those people are the children and grandchildren of the
people who came here and decided that Yiddishkeit was for the galus
(exile) and then set out to impose THEIR views on everyone else.

And BTW a byproduct of people going to Cyprus to get married is that
there are a lot less questions of Mamzerus than there might be otherwise

> and avoid having kosher affairs where mixed dancing
> disqualifies kashrut certification.

In the years since we made aliya, I have attended a wedding in Tel Aviv
where one of the Chief Rabbis officiated and there was mixed dancing
during the meal, and another wedding in a non-religious Kibbutz where
there was no Kosher food available. Yes, there are Rabbinates in Israel
where you cannot get a marriage license if you are going to hold the
ceremony in a place that does not have a Kashrus certificate (Tel Aviv
and I think Jerusalem; maybe others). I also know that the Rabbinate in
Tel Aviv has an auditorium that they let people use when they have no
other Rabbinate-approved place where they want to get married. And AFAIK
no place has lost its Hashgacha because someone private came in from the
street, held a wedding at the establishment and had mixed dancing at the

As many other posters have pointed out, the way Kashrus certification
ought to treat things done by the establishment is different from the
way it ought to treat things done by customers.  There is very little a
Mashgiach can do about the customers. I recall an incident many years
ago where a catering hall in the US was horrified because one of their
customers brought in a stripper for a New Year's Eve party without the
caterer's knowledge. It was wrong, but the caterer didn't lose his
hashgacha over it because it was not something he did - it was something
his customers did and he was unable to stop it.

Having said all that, I want to raise one other Hashgacha-related issue
that has come up in Israel over the last few years to see what thoughts
you might have. In the large cities, restaurants with Rabbinate
Hashgachos are not permitted to remain open on Shabbos. Over the last
few years, as a result of restaurants seeking to remain open on Shabbos
and not lose their Hashgachos, "alternative" Hashgachos have sprung up
in the large cities (Jerusalem and Tel Aviv) that do not meet Halachic
standards. I don't know how many establishments are under such
Hashgachos in Tel Aviv; I only know of one in Jerusalem. The average
tourist has no way of knowing that these Hashgachos may not meet
accepted Halachic standards, because all you see is a certificate in the
window. (In fact, the reason I know about the one in Jerusalem is that I
picked up a restaurant guide in one of the hotels and it was listed
there). On the other hand, just as you all know which Hashgachos you
consider reliable in your home towns and which you do not not, those of
us who live in Israel and keep Kosher know which Hashgachos we consider
reliable and which we do not consider reliable. Caveat emptor....

-- Carl Sherer
Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for my son, 
Baruch Yosef ben Adina Batya among the sick of Israel. 
Thank you very much.


From: Deborah Wenger <dwenger@...>
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 99 08:43:11 -0400
Subject: Re:Religious Organizations Mandated to Control

Russell Hendel does a good job of consolidating a number of the kashrut 
supervision questions when he states:

>It immediately follows that if my contract with an orginazation reads
>"Supervise Kashruth" then that contract MUST be interpreted
>restrictively (Kosher food) and not liberally (Kosher atmosphere).
>Let me summarize the above with principles that I think everyone (!?!?)
>might agree on:
>1) We all agree that if the Jewish community were structued with two
>types of orginazations (one that certified food and one that certified
>atmosphere) then no one would object to each orginazation doing their
>2) Similarly we all agree that people can contract with whom they wish
>3) So the only place of disagreement is where there is one type of
>supervisory orginazation (For KASHRUTH) and they already contracted with
>the restaurant and then want to withdraw their Kashruth because the
>atmosphere of the restaurant is bad (because of live singing).

However, this still leaves a number of questions open:
(1) A previous poster pointed out that some establishments contract with 
a mashgiach for kashrut only - someone who may not be a rabbi and who is 
an expert in kashrut matters, but not necessarily competent to rule on 
other matters, such as kol isha. In this case, a contract would have to 
be interpreted to mean supervision of the food only, as the 
mashgiach/mashgicha may not be qualified to rule on other matters.
(2) In the original case I cited so long ago, the restaurant in question 
featured a female singer on only one occasion. This was publicized well 
in advance, so there would be no question of people going to the 
restaurant not knowing that there would be such entertainment. I think 
that surely, there would have been other ways to deal with the situation 
more leniently than a blanket withdrawal of hashgacha - for example, 
having the supervising organization post a notice that it did not approve 
of the entertainment for that day. OTOH, would this not have been the 
perfect opportunity for, say, women's organizations to hold fundraisers? 
(3) While we're speaking of legal issues, I believe that a number of 
issues ago, someone brought up the point of the staff of a restaurant 
being dressed in an immodest manner. This is definitely a sticky 
situation, as "immodest" for some might be perfectly acceptable to others 
- e.g., women wearing pants. I've made a point over the last few weeks to 
observe the attire of the wait staff in kosher restaurants I've been to 
(good reason to eat out, right?). In most places, I'd say that the 
majority of the wait staff is not even Jewish, and in all restaurants, 
the "uniform" tends to be of the shirt-and-pants variety. Most places do 
allow observant female wait staff to wear skirts that match the pants of 
the rest of the staff; OTOH, I believe that there is legal precedent 
against REQUIRING women in such positions to wear skirts while the men 
are wearing pants, which in jobs that require a lot of bending and 
lifting might be more comfortable.

>But the issue of whether an orginazation can
>withdraw because it wants to expand its role I think is clear cut.
By this, I'm assuming that you mean that it has a right to do so, 

This does open up a whole other can of worms, which people seem to have 
been tiptoeing around: the specter of a "frum police" intruding on 
people's entire lifestyle. Personally, I find this frightening and 
abhorrent, but I know there will be many comments on the topic...

Kol tuv,
Deborah Wenger


End of Volume 29 Issue 54