Interview with Rabbi Uri Regev (translation from Russian)

Chief Rabbinate once again seeks out Non-kosher Jews

Rabbi Uri Regev was interviewed by the Israeli Russian language news portal “Detaly” on the matter of the Chief Rabbinate’s recently uncovered initiative to enshrine in law its right to compile a list of persons whose Jewish statuses are doubtful by its standards.

Chief Rabbi David Lau, source: WikipediaChief Rabbi David Lau, source: Wikipedia

CLICK HERE for Interview with "Detaly"


The Chief Rabbis of Israel, David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, want to enshrine in law the right of the Chief Rabbinate to compile lists of persons whose Jewish statuses are doubtful to the Rabbinate. This initiative became known by chance, in the course of discussion of a Supreme Court case on another matter, but the news caused a storm of protest in Israeli society.

Rabbi Uri Regev, Esq., CEO of Hiddush, told "Detaly" that first and foremost, such black lists will include Israeli citizens from the Former Soviet Union. MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union party) promised that if such a law were passed, she would challenge it at the Supreme Court. Julia Malinovskaya (Yisrael Beiteinu) appealed to the Minister of Justice, demanding that she prevent the advancement of this bill, if it is put forward.

The Hiddush NGO stands for freedom of religion and civic equality. According to Uri Regev, the Chief Rabbinate violates the basic legal norms of our state by its actions.


- Why do we periodically have one "black list", then another?

- Yes, that seems to be the case, that the Rabbinate periodically finds new subjects "for entertainment," says Uri Regev, "They bring up the subject of illegitimate Jewish children (Mamzerim) who [they say] cannot be considered [full] Jews; then suddenly there are black lists of foreign rabbis whose validity as rabbis the Chief Rabbinate of Israel does not recognize. Now, [they want] lists of people whose Jewish status is in doubt. What's more, people who never once turned to the Rabbinate for confirmation of their Jewish statuses may be included in these lists.

This is how the Rabbinate's desire to consolidate its monopoly on all aspects of religious life is expressed - regardless of public opinion. Our NGO conducted a survey to determine whether Israeli society is ready to consider those who are not considered Jewish according to halakha (for example, those with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers), and the overwhelming majority of respondents said that they accept such people as Jews!

Society supports doing away with the Chief Rabbinate's monopoly, by which it dictates to all of us the one and only true view of life.

Society supports the need to change the relationship between religion and state. Society supports doing away with the Chief Rabbinate's monopoly, by which it dictates to all of us the one and only true view of life. Hiddush and a number of other social organizations are waiting for an answer to the question: "Why does the Chief Rabbinate allow itself to go against the laws of the State of Israel? We are not at all against the existence of a Rabbinate; we want there to be an alternative.


- But nobody has yet introduced this bill, which everyone so excited about. Who will put it forward, who will support it?

- Only the initiative itself is being discussed, put forward by the Chief Rabbis. I think that politicians from the Haredi political parties will put it forward, and perhaps the [Zionist Orthodox] Jewish Home party will support the bill. But I can't soundly make such a claim. Most likely, it will go back and forth in the decision making process. I think that the Kulanu party and the Yisrael Beiteinu party will be categorically opposed to it because this bill, I dare say, is an attack against their electorates and would lead to violations of the status quo.


- In this situation, the law has no chance of success, does it?

- I agree. But that's not the point. Such an initiative itself is fraught with danger. It underscores the growing radicalization of the ultra-Orthodox [political parties] and their attempts to split society and influence the government, demanding new indulgences and benefits for themselves. But that's not all. In my opinion, those who are going to promote this bill cannot be called honest politicians.


- Why?

- Because, in fact, they perfectly understand that today society demands change and does not support such an initiative. And, above all, this applies to the secular politicians who pretend that they represent a wide swath of the population, but in reality remain puppets, whose strings are being pulled by the ultra-Orthodox parties.


- Do you think that our [Israeli] society is so strongly opposed to the ultra-Orthodox [parties]?

- It's not me who thinks so, our public opinion polls say so. 73 percent of the country's Jewish population supported the decision of the Supreme Court to approve the status of Tel Aviv, where shops continue to work on Saturdays. This included 63 percent of Likud voters, 87 percent of Kulanu voters, 100 percent of Yisrael Beiteinu voters, and even 42% of [the Zionist Orthodox party] Jewish Home voters.

Polls show that the influence of the ultra-Orthodox [parties] is weakening. If they do not join the coalition after the next election, their threats will lose their bite.


- And will the situation change immediately?

- Of course not. To make it change, society must achieve the [legal] right to get civilly married in Israel. When, finally, this matter is resolved - then, believe me, all this ultra-Orthodox encroachment will come to naught.

The Chief Rabbinate's monopoly over marriages and divorces is the main threat to the institution of family in our country. Many Israelis are doing everything possible not to fall into the hands of the mysoginist rabbis during their divorce proceedings. Our research shows that four out of every five secular Jews would prefer not to marry through the Rabbinate. It was the Chief Rabbinate's control over marriages and divorces that respondents in our public opinion surveys polls called the greatest stumbling block in Israel's conflict between religion and state.

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