British rabbis have condemned a so-called “blacklist” published in the name of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate of those it deems unworthy of verifying Jewish identity.
Rabbis from no less than 24 countries, including the UK, are named, among “Rabbi Blue”, believed to the late progressive leader Lionel Blue, along with West London Synagogue Senior Rabbi Mark Winer and Rabbi Rodney Mariner of Belsize Square Synagogue. While it is no surprise that the list includes the names of prominent progressive leaders, it also features British Orthodox Rabbi Daniel Glass, who has worked at the Jewish Learning Exchange.
Reform Judaism’s Senior Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner said: “This reflects a worrying direction of travel. We are seeing increasing levels of prejudice and sinat chinam – baseless hatred. It demonstrates the importance of continuing to campaign for full religious pluralism and freedom in Israel.”
Danny Rich, Senior Rabbi of Liberal Judaism, said: There is a very dangerous view that some Jews are not Jews or not Jewish enough. If this view prevails and wins political battles in Israel – then there is a real danger that what might have been a single national Jewish identity will become two Jewish peoples and the raison d’etre of Zionism will have disappeared and Israel may become just another theocratic backwater in the Middle East.
Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said he didn’t know about the “blacklist” before it was released. A public statement quoted him as dismissing it as “damaging”. It continues: “The Chief Rabbi was shocked to discover this list. This was done without the rabbi’s knowledge or his agreement. How can a list like this be publicised without the rabbi being made aware of the list itself or of its publication? The results of this are very serious. An employee in the Chief Rabbinate cannot decide on his own to publicise who the Rabbinate approves or not. Second, the damage this does to certain rabbis cannot be exaggerated – including to the Chief Rabbinate.”
The publication of the list comes on the heels of a clash between progressive Jewish leaders and the Chief Rabbinate over how to determine Jewish identity. In June, Israel’s Cabinet advanced a bill that would give the Chief Rabbinate authority over all official Jewish conversions within Israel. Following an outcry, the bill was shelved for six months.