Chief Rabbi Amar: “The Rabbinate is excellent…We have proven ourselves”
Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar responds to recent articles criticizing the Rabbanut’s activities by saying that “the Rabbinate is excellent, and the religious court judiciary is excellent…It is getting better and better, including the way in which it relates to the public.”
Chief Rabbis, Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger at the Yeshurun synagogue in Jerusalem. 18.07.2009. Photography: Abir Sultan, Flash 90
Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar accepted an interview after a series of articles published in Ha’aretz detailing religious Israelis who choose to participate in life cycle events outside of the Rabbanut. While there is ample evidence to suggest the deterioration of the Rabbanut in the public’s eyes during Amar’s tenure, he maintained that "It is really not like that…Beautiful work is being done with conversions; there are no unnecessary stringencies and no unnecessary leniency, and there also is beautiful work being done in both the army and in the civilian sphere. It is getting better and better, toward the positive side. And the Rabbinate is gaining even more strength.”
Amar chooses to ignore the discontent of a vast majority of Israeli Jews, as evidenced by Hiddush’s Israel Religion and State Index this summer; 80% of the Jewish population is dissatisfied with how the government handles issues of religion and state.
Amar suggests that those who oppose the Rabbanut’s work are being misled or deceived: "There are people who want to run the world themselves. It is hard for them to come to terms with the fact that they are not running the world. There are people who make their living from there being X number of women who are refused a divorce."
Amar spoke to increasing privatization in conversion, and his support of ultra-Orthodox courts doing this, even if they work outside of the Rabbanut. Even though it is well known, as Ettinger points out, that Amar “gives your seal of approval to whatever they do”, Amar remarked that “The more official and state-oriented, the better, that's my opinion. And if they listened to me, the rabbis of the private Haredi courts would do this, too. If they could rise above themselves, they would relent. It's [the Rabbanut] better, it's more organized and better arranged.”
Rav Amar: “I will say outright, and you have my word on this, that the Rabbinate is excellent, and the religious court judiciary is excellent, much better than what was the case many years ago. It is getting better and better, including also the way in which it relates to the public… We have proved ourselves."
As for couples who decide to marry religiously outside of the Rabbanut, Amar remarked that "If there is such a thing, we are willing to listen, but for the most part it is because of other reasons. Maybe such a couple has the intention that they won't need a divorce… and no one will catch them. It is like telling a bank: Give me a loan, while laundering funds. You have to be clever…That is the kind of generation we have, with people who are angry. But you should know…people with their own interests are capitalizing on this, people with different motives. The tendency is to always go against the establishment, particularly against the religious establishment, but you also have to use a critical sense, and see things as they really are."
The recent controversy between the Rabbanut and the Tzohar organization was also discussed in the interview. Tzohar seeks to perform Orthodox wedding ceremonies through the Rabbanut, albeit with a more user friendly and accessible approach; the Rabbanut has threatened to shut down their project. Amar says Tzohar are the descendants of Korah, the biblical figure who rose up against Moses and Aaron and was killed by God for his subjugation. Amar says Tzohar, like Korach, filled with “an inclination to argue”.
Amar continued “I will say outright, and you have my word on this, that the Rabbinate is excellent, and the religious court judiciary is excellent, much better than what was the case many years ago. It is getting better and better, including also the way in which it relates to the public… We have proven ourselves."
See more from Rav Amar’s interview for Ha’aretz here