• Conversion, the Knesset and the Supreme Court

    Late last March, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that “that the state must recognize private conversions to Orthodox Judaism that are conducted outside the framework of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate… According to the ruling, individuals who underwent conversion at any Orthodox rabbinical court, in Israel or aboard, will be recognized as Jewish, and will thus be eligible to receive Israeli citizenship in accordance with the Law the Return. “I see no justification for interpreting the Law of Return in bringing discrimination between those who converted to Judaism in Israel and those who converted to Judaism abroad,” Miriam Naor, the president of the Supreme Court, wrote in the court ruling.

    While the ruling brought immediate condemnation from the Chief Rabbinate, its implications are far from clear. The Supreme Court did not rule to accept any conversion from any denomination. Rather, it ruled that the State must accept Orthodox conversions performed in Israel, just as it accepts conversions from Orthodox rabbis in the Diaspora.

     

    What about Conservative and Reform Conversions

    In a follow-up to the Supreme Court ruling, the Moetzet Rabbanei Tzohar met to discuss the implications of the ruling and what steps Tzohar should take on the issue. While the Moetzet made no decision about the Supreme Court ruling (you can see a prior Moetzet decision regarding Giyyur in Israel here) and therefore Tzohar has yet to take an official position on the matter, the guests invited to address the rabbanim – Professor Aviad HaCohen and MK Ze’ev Elkin offered important insights about the issue of conversion and the law.

    According to Professor HaCohen, Giyyur is not mentioned in Israeli law. Officially, no one has the legal right to perform conversions in Israel, because the Knesset never gave jurisdiction over conversion to any official branch of government. Essentially, this makes anyone doing Giyyur illegal, because they don’t have the right to do so. This means that everyone who did engage in giyyur, from the Chief Rabbinate to the Chareidim to the private giyyur, is essentially acting outside of the law. Thus, because neither the Chief Rabbinate nor anyone else has the legal authority to convert, there’s no reason to give legal precedence to one rabbinic body over any other. For this reason, the Supreme Court ruled that even if the Giyyur wasn’t performed in the context of the official channels, nonetheless the converts must be categorized according to the Law of Return as Jews.

    How do we ensure that people don’t use the law as a means to attain citizenship? The Court said that it would only recognize a conversion performed בקהילה יהודית – in the context of a Jewish community; Does the community have a history? Does it have institutions? (This is similar to the previous Supreme Court decision which recognized conversions in the Diaspora as long as it was performed in the context of a community – thus recognizing Reform and Conservative conversions performed in the Diaspora.) The Court argued that it doesn’t make sense that a rabbi who performed a conversion outside Israel would have his conversion recognized, but if that same rabbi moved to Israel and performed a conversion, his conversion would not be recognized.

    The bottom line is that the Supreme Court had to issue its ruling for the simple reason that there’s no law on the books. Moreover, the justices on the court intimated that absent Knesset legislation, the Court will extend its ruling to include Reform conversions if asked. If the Knesset passed a law giving conversion authority to a specific body – either the Chief Rabbinate, or the local rabbinates, or both – the Supreme Court would most likely accept the law as legislated.

     

    The Politics of Conversion

    In his address to the Moetzet Rabbanim, MK Zev Elkin noted an inherent contradiction in the Religious Zionist world today. On one hand, we want to limit the power of the religious establishment in Israel in order to maintain the Orthodox hegemony over religious life in Israel. At the same time, we’re not really happy with the current rabbinic leadership in the Chief Rabbinate, and resist its attempts to centralize its control and power.

    MK Elkin noted that the Chareidim and the Chief Rabbinate are gravely concerned, worried about the possibility of Reform conversions in Israel. So, he suggested that it’s possible to turn the challenge into an opportunity for a compromise. As passing a law would require the agreement of all religious parties in the coalition, the only law that will pass the Knesset is one that would give both the Chief Rabbinate and local Rabbinates the legal authority to perform conversions. This would leave the Ultra-Orthodox parties with a choice: Do they want the Chief Rabbinate to keep its power and in order to receive the support of the Religious Zionists agree to share that power with the local rabbinates? Or, will they dig in their heels, refuse to compromise, and everyone loses?

    All indications do not point to the possibility of a compromise. A recent law proposed by Elazar Stern that would have allowed local rabbinates to perform conversions was scuttled by Shas. Then again, with enough pressure and the proper incentives, in politics, anything is possible.

  • Leading the Fight against Religious Discrimination in Petach Tikvah

    Religious discrimination in Petach Tikvah has been plaguing members of the Ethiopian community for several years now. As far back as 2014, the local rabbinate refused to register members of the Ethiopian community to marry, as is their legal right. At the time, Rav David Stav suggested that rather than suffer degradation at the hands of the local rabbinate, young couples could apply to marry through Tzohar, where they would be received warmly, like every other Israeli couple. After the inevitable media firestorm that ensued, both the local rabbinate and representatives of the Ministry of Religious Services promised to address the concerns and ensure the fair treatment of all Jews in Petach Tikva, Ethiopians included.

     

    Nagosa_Avraham

    MK Avraham Neguise

    Sadly, things never truly improved. Recently, thePetach Tikvah rabbinate refused to approve the marriage of an Ethiopian who had converted under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate and presented a legitimate conversion certificate. In addition, the local rabbinate would often refuse to register Ethiopian applicants for marriage, sending them to a different regional council. Earlier this month, the Knesset subcommittee for Aliyah and Absorption , led by committee chairman MK Avraham Naguise , held a hearing to discuss the ongoingdiscrimination against Ethiopians wishing to marry. According to Rav Avraham Barkolin, the Rav of the Ethiopian community in Nes Tziona, explained that the phenomenon was more widespread than people realize. “You’re discussing Petach Tikva because that’s the stronghold [of discrimination], but the phenomenon exists in other places across the country. The city rabbi in Nes Tziona plays rosh katan when he refuses to approve the certificate of conversion in order to marry, dragging out the process for months. He’ll send the certificate [back] to the Chief Rabbinate for approval, despite the fact that [the couple] brought the original Conversion Certificate from the official Conversion Authority of the Chief Rabbinate…I had one case where the kallah received a conversion certificate and the chatan had a regular ishur yahadut, and by the day of the wedding we still had not received the ketubah from the local rabbinate. I told the rabbi of the city that from my perspective they could fire me, but I took a ketubah and married them…”

     

    The most shocking revelation from the hearing came from a Moshe Dagan, Assistant Executive Director of the Religious Affairs Ministry, who explained that, “There is an instruction that we are permitted to ask one question of someone who comes to register to marry, in order to certify that the conversion is true and proper. The Council of the Chief Rabbinate has established that one is permitted to ask one question: Have you fulfilled any mitzvah since you received your Certificate of Conversion?” After a brief period of stunned silence in the committee room, MK Naguise broke the silence by asking, “Are you joking with us? What is the connection between ascertaining that the certificate is valid and asking halachic questions?” All Dagan could do was repeat that this was the standard procedure, and that he is not the person to talk to about halachic questions.

     

    So, according to a high-level representative of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, none other than the Chief Rabbinate issued instructions to the local rabbinates to question the validity of conversions conducted under the auspices of – you guessed it – the Chief Rabbinate itself.

     

    With the revelation of yet another example of religious discrimination last month, Tzohar responded, suggesting that it would consider opening a local office in Petach Tikvah to serve the needs of that community. So, when Tzohar announced that it would consider opening an office in Petach Tikvah, this wasn’t an empty threat. While the local rabbinates have vowed to fight to protect their monopoly status and prevent Tzohar from offering its services to citizens across Israel, if the local Petach Tikvan Rabbinate refuses to enforce the law and continues todiscriminate against Ethiopian Jews (and cause a major Chilul Hashem in the process), Tzohar is willing and ready to provide the services these people deserve with the warmth, eagerness and positive attitude that has transformed the wedding experience for tens of thousands of couples.

     

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    A Bit of Background: How Do You Register to Marry in Israel

    Many people erroneously believe that all marriages are conducted through the Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel. This has never been the case. The vast majority of religious services, including constructing the local eruv and mikvah, burials, kashrut and wedding registrations, take place through the dozens of local Religious Councils spread across Israel. The Chief Rabbinate has no official control over the actions of these councils, cannot police them, and can only issue guidelines which the councils can either enforce or ignore. (This explains the widely recognized discrepancies between the kashrut standards of different local rabbinates, and the incredible confusion this causes for the local consumer, who has no real way of knowing the kashrut of a specific rabbanut.) Traditionally, Israelis register through their local moatzah datit when they wished to marry. The local rabbinate then deals with the specifics of the wedding and passes on the registration of the marriage to the Interior Ministry, who then officially registers the couple as married.

     

    How Does Tzohar Register Weddings?

    Like every other marriage in Israel, the weddings performed under the auspices of Tzohar also flow through a local religious council. In Tzohar’s case, all of the four to five thousand weddings we facilitate each year take place either through the rabbanut of Shoham, under Rav Stav, or through the rabbanut of Gush Etzion. The marriages that take place under Tzohar’s auspices are officially registered with the Ministry of Interior, no differently than all other marriages which take place across the Jewish State. Applications for marriage must take place in person, at the local religious council office. For this reason, until two years ago, any couple who wished to marry through Tzohar had to travel to our offices in Lod to apply. (While couples can open a file online, they must appear at the office in person before the wedding.) To remove the impediment of long-distance travel, two years ago, Tzohar opened two regional offices, in Jerusalem (on the campus of Hebrew University) and in Haifa, thus making registration through Tzohar far more convenient for couples from those areas.

  • “Shaming” – A brief Halachic guide

    by Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, 28 October, 2015

    Brief cautionary note:
    Slander and causing embarrassment play a very crucial role in our lives. The Chafetz Chaim of blessed memory showed us the appropriate amount of detail a Halachic book that must contain on this subject which is literally a matter of life and death. The brief words written below do not constitute a complete and systematized treatise of the subject, rather they form a practical summary of many years of involvement in this and similar subjects, and they constitute a practical guide in light of the Halacha on the subject of shaming.

    Reporting the shaming:

    At the outset one needs to remember that we are dealing with a subject which is literally a matter of life and death. In the opinion of some of the medieval commentators (Rishonim) one must rather die than commit a transgression in this regard. This reminder applies to both parties – whether it is the injured party, where our silence and failure to support him could lead to his demise, or whether it applies to the wrongdoer, where an overreaction to his crime may also result in very dire consequences. The last year has taught us that words can also kill in the latter case. Therefore any decision should only be made with pure motives and for pure intentions and not for the purposes of gain for other parties, and as much as possible it must be for the pure sake of heaven.

    It is important to emphasize in Jewish ethics the notion of the “public having a right to know” is a distorted notion. The public has no right to know every detail of an individual’s private affairs. Jewish ethics does recognize the “duty of the public to know”, in other words: there are things of which the public has a duty to be informed- a duty to report. It is not always easy to distinguish between the two but it is important this be the guiding principle of the person who reports it.

    Four vital conditions must exists when it comes to reporting the shaming:

    1) Truth – the author of the shaming must write the truth and should confine himself to the relevant truth but must make sure that such truth is presented in its entirety. It is forbidden for someone to write anything of which he has no personal knowledge and instead he should write “I speculate”, “I assume” or “some have claimed this, but I emphasize that I do not know this as a fact,” etc. The word “truth” includes complete avoidance of any manipulative language and distinguishing between the facts and the interpretation thereof. The basis for this Halacha may be found in the Torah’s demand to “distance oneself from falsehood”. In other words: it is insufficient merely not to lie, one must distance oneself from falsehood (this is the only thing in the Torah from which there is an express command to distance oneself.).

    2) Necessity – if there is no necessity to publish these things in public, and there are other ways of solving the problem which are just as efficient- you must take the other path and not spread libel about an individual in public; in contradistinction if there is a dire necessity to publicize the matter – it is forbidden to keep silent as the Torah has commanded us “Do not stand still when your neighbor’s life is in danger” as well as “You shall rid yourselves of evil”

    3) Proportionality- the mere fact that it is permissible and perhaps even an obligation to publicize these matters does not absolve the reporter from disclosing only that which is necessary. Irrelevant facts, even if true, which may harm someone else who does not deserve to be harmed are forbidden to be published, proportionality is also related to many other aspects – the ability to easily identify the person who has been reported (there is no way of completely avoiding identification and therefore I am referring specifically to the ease or difficulty of identification, etc.).

    4) Caution- Beware of causing greater damage specifically due to the reporting and thereby causing much greater harm than is deserved. This is not a Halachic condition, but one has to remember that together with reporting the matters as explicitly as possible one should also examine the possibility of allowing for an opportunity to correct, soften, and change the narrative. We should not only be speaking the language of justice but also the language of mercy and compassion. Halacha has taught us that the law of “loving your neighbor as yourself” applies even to a person who is about to be executed

    Spreading the Shaming:

    This is a complicated issue and it is difficult to set fixed guidelines since on the one hand without spreading the information we have dispensed with a vital tool to wage the battle. On the other hand there is a possibility of manipulating and exploiting the pure intentions of the reader for despicable motives. Therefore we should utilize this tool sparingly to avoid the hazards we are bound to cause which would bring about indescribable and irremediable suffering- whatever is published on the internet remains there. Nevertheless it is possible to establish the following principles (in light of the episode cited in Tractate Niddah 61a).

    1. The reader of the shaming must embed in his mind the recognition that what he is reading is not a fact but rather a story or narrative of someone writing something. It could be correct and it could also be incorrect, and generally speaking there is an enormously wide spectrum of possibilities where some of the things are accurate while others are less so.
    2. The reader of the shaming should make every effort to hear the position of the other party- the wrongdoer, by virtue of the instruction given to the judges “‘Listen to every dispute among your brethren, and judge honestly”. Anytime we read such information we are involved in an act of judging and it requires us to make the best effort we can of listening to both sides so that we can know more.
    3. The reader of the shaming should evaluate the necessity of spreading these matters far and wide. If forwarding such information does no good – it is forbidden to forward it; if it emerges as much as you are able to detect that these matters which you have forwarded are indeed essential to deal with the injustice, (even if not by such a great degree) then you must forward it while noting the fact: “Take note that although I am forwarding this notice I do not know whether it is correct, but it is essential that it be forwarded– judge for yourselves, etc.

    For the reasons raised above one should know that it is best to use this tool very sparingly.  And when you do make use of it then the words we have cited above should serve as general guidelines to assist us in preserving conduct which conforms to Halachic ethics even in a complex clash between the duty to save the oppressed from his oppressor and the prohibition against public embarrassment and slander.

    by Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, 28 October, 2015

  • The Kotel Compromise: Unprecedented Achievement, or Historic Catastrophe?

    7979910861_9f5340b377_zThe Israeli Cabinet recently approved what it called a “historic” decision to create a new prayer space at the Kotel which will be open to egalitarian prayer as well as to women’s prayer services. Driven primarily by monthly unrest caused by an ongoing, seemingly unending dispute between the Rav of the Kotel and the Women of the Wall over the right of women to pray at the Kotel in Tallit and Tefillin with a Sefer Torah, the government decided to create a new permanent prayer space at the far end of the Kotel in the Robinson’s Arch area, which will replace the temporary platform that was constructed two years ago.

    The new space will “dramatically remodeled, upgraded and enlarged, will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, will not entail any cost to enter, and will constitute a “fully functional and operational” prayer space with the requisite infrastructure, such as provide prayer books, prayer shawls, Torah scrolls, and other necessities for regular prayer services.” Rather than sit a short distance from the actual Kotel, the new area will offer access to mixed prayer at the Wall with access from the main entrance of the Kotel Plaza.

     

    Who Controls the Site?
    While the current Kotel complex remains under the authority of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Rav of the Kotel, the new site will fall under the authority (and budget) of the Prime Minister’s Office, and be administered by a committee headed by the chairman of the Jewish Agency, including representatives from Women of the Wall, the Reform Movement, the Masorti (Conservative) Movement, the Jewish Federations of North America and the government, with an administrator appointed by the prime minister. The area will have no rabbi. Essentially, the government created a “secular” prayer space governed by a political, and not a religious office.

    Is This a Good Thing?
    On one hand, the seemingly never-ending fight over the Kotel and who has the right to pray there was not good for Israel nor for world Jewry. Compromise in general is a laudable goal that we must strive to achieve, and we must be willing to make concessions in order to achieve it accord and agreement between different Jewish factions.

    Tzohar’s Perspective

    The announced compromise as currently constituted faces a number of challenges that call the agreement into question. First and foremost, there’s no guarantee that the compromise will lead to peace between the different factions. Immediately after the agreement was announced, a splinter group of Women of the Wall publicitzed its objection to the agreement and their refusal to pray in the new egalitarian section. In addition, many top archeologists condemned the plan, which will destroy a critical archaeological site. Finally, according to Rav Yuval Cherlow, the Ethics Department Chair at Tzohar, this agreement is a grave mistake that will ultimately divide the Jewish people.

    From the time of reunification in 1967, there was always one Kotel – one place that all Jews around the world turned to, visited and were drawn towards to pray and connect to God. Now, according to Rav Cherlow, “The final outcome of this compromise is that from this moment forward there are two Kotels – a halachic Kotel for the religious, and another Kotel where one can do as one pleases. Now, specifically in the placed that used to serve to unite all Jews – the place that we gather, and will one day gather to unify the name of God, everyone will have to decide: what type of Jews am I? Am I this type of Jew or that? When I enter the Kotel plaza do I turn left or right? At which Kotel do I pray at? Now, the Kotel will serve as yet another place for divisiveness and separation.”

    “I wonder”, asked Rav Cherlow, “the next time the Prime Minster of Israel visits the Kotel, which Kotel will he visit? To which Judaism does he belong? The next time the State brings a head of State, or a visiting emissary from another country, to which Kotel will he be brought? A family bar mitzvah suddenly becomes yet another opportunity for debate and argument, and that to my mind, is a Churban.”

    Asked what could have been done to prevent the split, Rav Cherlow admitted that while he’s not in favor of the Women of the Wall reading the Torah from the Women’s section. “I would have rather swallowed the fact that women were praying in Tallit in Tefillin once a month – even though I’m not happy about it – if that was the price I had to pay to keep the Kotel as a source of unity for the Jewish people – so that everyone, all Jews, would pray at one, single halachic Kotel.”

    “I fear that instead of the Kotel being a place that unites Klal Yisrael – a place where everyone compromises to some degree in order for all Jews to have a place where they pray together – it will now turn into a place of distance and discord. Instead of the picture we have in our minds of the Kotel as a source of unity, it will instead become a place of disunity and communal fragmentation.”

    “Instead of Jerusalem serving as a source of Shalom and unity, it will become yet another symbol of that which divides us.”

    “That, to my mind, is a tragedy for Klal Yisrael.”

  • A Chuppa in Sign Language

    by Rav Zev Rosenfeld
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    For thousands of years, communication with people born without the ability to hear and speak was nearly impossible, and therefore Halacha regarded them as exempt from mitzvot.   In addition, deaf people had a different status when getting married.  In the past few hundred years, communication with the deaf has progressed with the help of sign language, and more recently, with hearing aids and Cochlear Implants.  With this progression, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel recently announced that it regards the deaf person with a high level of communication as a “pikeiach”, and is to be regarded like all hearing Jews regarding mitzvot and their wedding ceremony.

    Shortly after this announcement, I had the unique honor of applying these new halachic guidelines, as I officiated at the weddings of two couples, where both the bride and groom communicate through sign language.

    During our preliminary meetings, where we communicated through a sign language translator, I learned that they are outstanding and bright individuals.  One bride is studying for her Master’s degree in law. Another won many awards while volunteering for the IDF, including the award granted by the President on Yom Ha’atzmaut.  One groom is a personal coach and trainer, helping others reach their goals.  The other served in the Air Force of the IDF.  One couple works in the Holon Children’s Museum, which has an exhibit meant to raise sensitivity toward the hearing impaired.

    There are some unique halachic questions which present themselves in a wedding ceremony for the deaf.   One issue is how to recite berachot on behalf of people that cannot hear.  We generally apply the halachic principle of “Shome’a K’oneh” every time one person recites a beracha for others.  All those who listen with intent and answer “amen”, fulfill their obligation.  However, when the chatan and kallah are deaf, and they do not hear the bracha, how should the berachot be recited?  (Seeing the sign language does not help for the principle of Shome’a K’oneh, as they are not “shome’a”.)  Another issue is how to have the witnesses understand the chatan when he “recited” the traditional “Harei at mekudeshet li…” before giving the bride the ring.  Since the witnesses must understand what the chatan is saying, they are to learn how to say “Harei at …” in sign language.  Before officiating at the weddings, I learned and prepared myself for these and other special halachic issues.

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    The chupah ceremony was translated into sign language by two translators, one for the family members under the chupah, and one for the hundreds of hearing impaired guests in the audience.

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    I feel a sense of “shlichut” in every wedding I perform for Tzohar, as I am bridging the gap between secular Jews and our Jewish tradition.  I feel especially privileged to be a part of the halachic process of redefining the status of these special members of the disabled community.  I am inspired by their determination and motivation to be fully active members of our society, despite their limitations.

  • Connecting to Judaism under the Chuppa!

    by Rabbi David Brofsky
    brofsky
    In recent years, I felt a greater desire, and urgency, to contribute to the broader Israeli public. I registered for a course, offered by Tzohar, which trains rabbis to perform weddings for secular (“chiloni”) Israeli couples. These couples would like a Jewish, halakhic, and meaningful wedding ceremony, but are often afraid of, if not turned off to, the Rabbinic establishment. Tzohar trains rabbis not only in the intricacies of the chuppa ve-kiddushin, but also in the special needs, both halakhic and pastoral, of secular couples. I was impressed by the dedication, the professionalism, as well as the attention to halakhic detail, of the Tzohar rabbinic and support staff. This dedication, incidentally, continues after the wedding, and includes feedback, seminars, professional support and halackhic guidance.

    I recently performed a wedding of two non-religious Israelis, who both emigrated from the former Soviet Union over 25 years ago. When I met this couple, a lawyer and a doctor, I explained to them how meaningful it was to participate in their wedding, as the year in which they emigrated, I spent my vacation time from Yeshiva volunteering in Absorption Centers (Merkazei Kelita) which welcomed and helped the recent, and historic, Russian aliyah.

    I met with them, before the meeting, to discuss the details of the wedding, as well as to explain the meaning behind the various segments of the chuppa. They were polite and respectful, but were clearly not looking for too much as far as the ceremony. “Quick and simple”- they requested. As our meeting came to a close, the groom turned to me and explained that it it weren’t for Tzohar, they may not have even agreed to be married, or they might have traveled to Cyprus in order to perform a civil ceremony, as do many secular couples. He was appreciative of Tzohar, of the incredible efficiency and dedication of their rabbinic and office staff, and of their attempt to bridge of gaps between the secular and religious populations.

    As the wedding approached, I thought of simple, yet significant ways to make the ceremony meaningful for the couple, as well as for the guests. I spoke, briefly, about the foundations of a healthy relationship, which we learn from the Jewish people’s relationship with God as forged at Yetziat Mitzraim. Just as the Jewish people began their relationship with God without chametz, without ego and self-centerdness, but rather with sincerity and simplicity, so too their relationship should be built upon the bond between their true and authentic selves. The guests were quiet and attentive, and the couple was clearly moved.

    As I sat down with the groom and his parents, before the ceremony, to finalize the Ketuba, I noticed a tallit in the corner of the room. I had asked him, during our meeting, whether he was interested in wearing a tallit, and saying the Shechiyyanu blessing, during the ceremony, as is common at many Israeli weddings. He declined, without even giving it a thought. Upon noticing the tallit, I inquired whether he intended to wear the tallit at the wedding. His father then told me that his son decided, on his own, that he wanted to don the tallit during the ceremony. As I helped him try on the tallit, which he had clearly never worn, my eyes became teary, as I realized that the ceremony was no longer a technical, legal duty – he had connected, on some level, to the Jewish depth and meaning of the wedding.

    Each year Tzohar performs weddings for thousands of Israeli couples, offering them a meaningful, authentic, and halachic ceremony which they most likely would not have had. I am honored to have joined the ranks of Tzohar’s volunteer rabbis, who bring light, peace, and Torah, to the Israeli population, wedding after wedding.

    Rabbi David Brofsky is a senior faculty member at Midreshet Lindenbaum, the author of “Hilchot Tefilla: A Comprehensive Guide to the Laws of Daily Prayer” and “Hilchot Moadim”, and a member of Irgun Rabbanei Tzohar.

  • Life in a Single Box

    Life in a Single Box – Shorashim’s First Annual Conference

    In the basement of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem sits an archive of hundreds of boxes which contain many thousands of documents from the Holocaust era. During a recent tour for Shorashim employees as part of Shorashim’s first annual conference, Chair Gertner, the archive administrator, shared the contents of a single box among many. Rav Shimon Har Shalom, administrative director of Tzohar’s Shorashim project, described how this box helped a woman reclaim her Jewish status at the age of sixty.
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  • Steve Chats With Rabbi Reuven Spolter

  • A Discussion with Rav David Stav on the Recent Decision of the Government of Israel to Allow Local Rabbis to Form Conversions Courts

    Last month, the government of Israel approved a decision that will allow local rabbinates to open conversion courts recognized by the State of Israel. Throughout the long political process that led to the decision, Tzohar strongly supported the legislation arguing that it would expand access to giyyur to thousands of Israelis who currently are not halachically Jewish. Below is a discussion with Rav David Stav, Tzohar’s Chairman, about his support for the bill, and how he views the role of Tzohar in conversions in Israel moving forward.
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  • Sherlock Holmes, Rabbinic-Style (TZOHAR Approving Jewish Status)

    By Rav Reuven Spolter

     

    It began with a text message.

    Rav [Dovid] Stav wants you to call him.*

    I called.

    “There’s a young [secular] woman whose mother is originally from [a distant city in South America]. All we have is her parents’ ketubah, but we cannot identify the mesader Kiddushin [rabbi who performs the wedding ceremony]. They were members of Chabad of Toronto in the 1980s. Can we approve the ketubah for purposes of marriage?”
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