Rabbi Adam Scheier, the senior rabbi at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal, blasted the so-called blacklist of rabbis from around the world that was compiled by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel – a list that he is included on.
Appearing before a Knesset committee hearing on Feb. 19, Rabbi Scheier expressed his incomprehension at why he and other Diaspora rabbis are being treated “with such distrust.”
“It is … so painful to say the following: the recent actions of the Israeli chief rabbinate are causing hillul ha-Shem (desecration of God’s name),” he said.
In July, the chief rabbinate published a list of 160 overseas rabbis whose authority it refuses to recognize in certifying the Jewishness of anyone who wants to get married in Israel. Ten rabbis in Canada were named.
“I have been personally hurt by the rabbinate’s rejection of me. The irresponsible blacklisting of my name, together with many of my colleagues, diminished my reputation and the reputation of my community. The rabbinate has impeded my ability to serve the Jewish people,” said Rabbi Scheier. “The rabbinate has eroded my own community’s trust in my reliability.”
In describing an instance where his letter of attestation for one of his congregants was rejected by the chief rabbinate, Rabbi Scheier explained that he was never given a clear reason.
“They never actually spoke to me. They sent me one letter saying that it might have been rejected because of a suspected forgery. But that didn’t make sense, because they didn’t call me to verify,” he said.
“And then, many months later, they revealed that they had another qualm with my letter. But that also made no sense, because they never called me.”
Rabbi Scheier – who was ordained at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a modern Orthodox seminary in New York – has served the Shaar for almost 14 years. The 172-year-old synagogue counts about 1,400 families among its members, many of whom are prominent in the community. They follow Orthodox halakhah and are strongly attached to Israel, he said.
“I am a real rabbi. My congregation is a legitimate congregation. Our communities in North America are not centralized like in Israel; each congregation sets its own priorities and responds to its own reality. The rabbinate has proven, time and again, that it has no interest in engaging and understanding the dynamic of Diaspora Jewish communities.”
Rabbi Scheier was appearing before a special session of the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs that was called by Yesh Ativ MK Elazar Stern.
According to a Haaretz report, Moshe Dagan, the director general of the chief rabbinate, said at the session that, “There is no blacklist of rabbis. What was published was a list of rabbis whose letters were not accepted.”
He apologized to Rabbi Scheier for any harm to his reputation, but insisted that the reason his letter had been rejected was that it was unclear whether the woman in question went through a proper religious divorce.
Dagan also said that the rabbinate is in the “final stages” of establishing the criteria for recognizing rabbis from abroad in the matter of certifying who is Jewish, and that Orthodox rabbinical organizations in the Diaspora will be consulted.