Israeli rabbinate OKs U.S. rabbis seal of Jewishness

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has reached an agreement with the main American Orthodox rabbinical association to automatically accept letters from council members vouching for the Jewish status of Israeli immigrants.

The agreement, described as “historic” by the Rabbinical Council of America, comes after the Chief Rabbinate refused to accept status letters from Rabbi Avi Weiss, an Orthodox rabbi and council member who has sparked controversy for ordaining women clergy and founding the “open Orthodox” rabbinical school Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. The Chief Rabbinate’s refusal sparked widespread outrage, ultimately leading it to reverse course.

Under the terms of the agreement, letters vouching for Jewishness will still be prepared by individual rabbis, but the RCA will issue, upon request from the rabbi, a supporting document directly to the Chief Rabbinate. The RCA endorsement will assure the letter is accepted immediately and without question.

Situations in which conversion or divorce are involved will be reviewed by the Beth Din of America, according to the RCA release. Rabbis who are not members of the RCA may also seek similar endorsements. — jta