Welcome to the weekly newsletter of Igud HaRabbonim, the Rabbinical Alliance of America, in which we share news for and about members, including communal news, announcements, publications, Divrei Torah, press releases and media mentions.
In this newsletter:
• Baruch Dayan HaEmes
• RAA Offers Innovative Retirement Plan To Benefit the Rabbinate
• Supreme Court: RAA’s Role in Religious Liberty Decision
• Seeking to Ordain Women Rabbis Presents A Grave Threat to The Very Fiber of Judaism
• Chaplaincy Commission Update
• Queens Jewish Link: Black Lives Matter
• Divrei Torah Pinchas
• The Rabbinical Alliance of America Calls for the Black Lives Matter Movement to Purge Anti-Semitism from Its Platform
• Hamodia: NYPD & Camps
• Rav Frager: Time for Sovereignty Now
Please let us know about your family simchos and l"a aveilus, book publications and career changes or milestones, so we can share as chaveirim our life events. Send updates to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We regret to inform you of the loss of Mrs. Ellen Fischer A”H, beloved wife of our chaver, Rav Dov Fischer of Irvine, CA. Rebbetzin Ellen A”H was a devoted wife, a talented Torah educator and a dedicated communal servant. Tehi zichra boruch
The Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim played a role in a groundbreaking religious liberty decision this week by the United States Supreme Court. In the case, OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE SCHOOL v. AGNES MORRISSEY-BERRU, the court ruled on July 8, 2020, that federal employment discrimination laws do not apply to teachers at church-run schools whose duties include religious instruction.
The 7-to-2 ruling affirms the religious liberties of religious groups, that their convictions cannot be challenged because they are constitutionally protected by the First Amendment. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom forbids judges from interfering in the internal workings of religious institutions.
“When a school with a religious mission entrusts a teacher with the responsibility of educating and forming students in the faith,” he wrote, “judicial intervention into disputes between the school and the teacher threatens the school’s independence in a way that the First Amendment does not allow.”
The court’s other more conservative members joined Justice Alito’s opinion, as did Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan.
The Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim was among the coalition of American Jewish Organizations represented in the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA) amicus brief filed in this landmark United States Supreme Court Case. Hopefully, this landmark decision will set a positive precedent that will protect religious liberty for generations to come.
The brief was written by the preeminent Orthodox Jewish Constitutional attorney Nat Lewin, Esq. Among the Orthodox groups who joined the brief included Agudath Israel of America, Agudas HaRabbonim, National Council of Young Israel, Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce and Rabbinical Council of America.
Justice Alito’s majority opinion for the Court says at page 17: “A brief submitted by Jewish organizations makes the point that Judaism has many ‘ministers,’” that is, “the term ‘minister’ encompasses an extensive breadth of religious functionaries in Judaism.” It is followed by footnote 11 that reads: “Brief for Colpa et al. as Amici Curiae i, 3 (quotation modified).”
The Israeli Chief Rabbinate has issued a threat which if carried out could lead to the direst of calamities, with ramifications for the future of Klal Yisrael. Please, do not get me wrong I fully agree with their threat as it addresses a challenge to the very fiber of Judaism, a challenge to Halacha that must not be allowed to stand.
There is now a challenge to the status quo, set in place by the founders of the modern State of Israel, by which all matters relating to religion are to be under the aegis of the Rabbinate. This is especially near and dear to every Torah observant Jew as in the entire world there is just one small sliver of land that is the Jewish homeland, the State of Israel – Medinat Yisrael. The current challenge, just another in a long string of such efforts at eroding the yearning of Jews throughout the millennia – and the cry of Religious Zionists – Medinat Yisrael al pi Torat Yisrael – to have and possess a Jewish state that loyally follows its benefactor, G-d, who deed the land to the Patriarch Abraham.
Now, there are those who wish to cause us great harm by insisting that Religious law be set aside and allow, actually demand that women be ordained as Rabbis. A petition has been filed with Israel’s Supreme Court by a number of groups, among them the Ruth and Emanuel Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women’s Status at Bar Ilan University. This is a matter too far off base, especially in light of the late Rabbi Emanuel Rackman’s history as an early president of the Rabbinical Council of America – Histadrut Harabbonim (RCA), a group that is steadfast in its allegiance to Halacha. The Rabbinate has threatened that if such a move becomes law it will suspend all ordinations.
Surprisingly, it seems that one of its supporters before the court is Israel’s Kippah wearing Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who has been at the forefront in the pending criminal charges against Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
My chaver and colleague Rabbi Aharon Ziegler both at The Jewish Press and the Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim, wrote a beautiful column in last week’s Jewish Press where he cited the Gaon Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Zt”l, apropos to this dilemma.
“In Hilchot Teshuvah (3:8), the Rambam writes, “Shlosha hen hanik’ra’in apikorsin –There are three categories of heretics,” and one of them is “hakofer befirusha, vehu Torah shebe’al peh, vehamak’chish megideha – one who denies the Oral Torah or doubts those who transmit the Torah.”
“Based on this statement, Rav Soloveitchik inferred that anyone who contradicts the Sages, or taints them with accusations like misogyny, is deemed “a doubter of Judaism.” He understood “one who contradicts the Sages” to mean even someone questioning their motives, denying their spiritual uprightness, or associating negative personal traits to them.“Rav Soloveitchik added that even if one rejects the great sages of a post-Talmudic generation, he is rejecting the tradition they embody.
“I might add that the sin of Korach and his cohorts lay in rejecting the teaching of Moshe Rabbeinu. When one rejects the sages of his day, he comes to deny even the explicit word of Hashem (that Aharon should serve as kohen gadol).
The severity of such traipsing on our Halacha is such that it demands our protest. On behalf of both the presidium and the entire 950-member body of the Rabbinical Alliance/Igud we register both our strongest protest in this matter and our steadfast support for the Chief Rabbinate, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef and Rabbi David Lau and all their colleagues.
Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Kahal Bnei Matisyahu, Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Chairman of the Presidium of the Rabbinical Alliance of America
From the desk of Rabbi Leonard( Yehuda)Blank MS, BCC
Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
July 8, 2020
I am continuing to dedicate my articles to my dear Ashis Chayil, Keila Lutza bas Shalom HaKohein A”H and continue to bring different aspects of her life.
However, I would like to also dedicate this article to Rav Yisrael Tzvi ben Rav Nosson Nota HaLevi zt’l. Rabbi Howard Kutner was a par excellent chaplain in addition to his years as a pulpit rabbi. One of his brothers mentioned to me how he was written up in major newspapers and interviewed on national media for his outstanding work with the Jewish elderly. He was a member of the Orthodox Jewish Chaplains Roundtable and the RCA .His dedication and devotion as director of Spiritual Living at Menorah Park Center for the Aging in Cleveland was outstanding. What the media took notice was his uplifting high-spirited work with the elderly, bringing many of them Jewish meaning of life and as we could also say simchas hachayim. I remember a number of years ago someone asked me isn’t kiruv for the younger population. The elderly have lived their lives. It isn’t as if they have years ahead to change or make an impact in their lives. I never felt that way in all the various work I did ( many together with my wife with her inspirations). I once discussed this with HaGoan HaRav Dovid Feinstein shlita who shared how important it is to give everyone, no matter what their age might be, the opportunities of doing mitzvos, having a relationship with their being Jewish and the Aibershta. Of course, on each person’s level, and abilities. It is up to each person working with the elderly to inspire with the same enthusiasm as with someone who is younger. There are so many golden opportunities for the golden years. It is important to be sincere, caring, compassionate, understanding, patient, and with lots of TLC. Just as an elderly person’s bones can be brittle, so could their feelings if you are not gentle with a soft and caring heart. The elderly deserve the same chances as anyone younger. Rabbi Kutner embodied the persona of such a caring chaplain with his innovative and caring programs, and engaging with and for the elderly. A professional chaplain just doesn’t give an oneg Shabbat, tell stories, sing songs, speak devrei Torah and so on. Yes, these and other activities are important, but there are other essential interactions with the elderly in many types of settings. Pastoral care /spiritual care needs a lot of skill, understanding, creativity and yes, the right education. Those in the medical and social work disciplines will share with you their specialty working with the elderly. The same holds true with chaplaincy. Rabbi Kutner died in his prime. After being diagnosed with his illness, he did not have many months to prepare for the future, but he left a legacy of how important chaplaincy is and the impact on the lives of others. The Rabbinical Alliance is proud to say that amongst the 950 rabbonim are also dedicated and devoted chaplains. I would hope as time goes on for other chaplains to also consider the merits of belonging to the RAA as well as their membership in other worthy organizations. Though the Coronavirus put a damper on programs we were planning, we are hoping to get back on track with some innovative and meaningful programs during the year.
For myself, it has been quite challenging after the death of my dear wife. This week would have been our 27th wedding anniversary. I have been told many times what wonderful memories I have to remember and enjoy. But, it is still difficult to bear being without such a precious person who encouraged me with anything good I did. I have taken over many of the responsibilities she did and know she would be proud of what I am doing. I cannot get over how she managed those responsibilities, as well as all the other wonderful things she did. Am I humbling myself. No, I am acknowledging her many accomplishments and yes, I did share how grateful I was for all that she did. I am grateful to the Ribono Shel Olam for the gift He gave me, our blended family and to all those she had a fabulous impact on their lives. I am comforted knowing she is in Gan Eiden, is still my inspiration, especially her tremendous emunah, her faith and her hope. When I think of her different hopes and the many discussions, we had about end of life concerns and thereafter. It reminds me of Rabbi Maurice Lamm’s “ Seven Hopes To Hold On To When There Is Nothing To Hope For” (The Power of Hope. The One Essential of Life and Love. Rawson Associates Scribner Simon & Shuster Inc.) which he elaborates in greater depth in his book. Hope that you will be able to cope with suffering, Hope that something good will come from it. Hope for remission-if not a cure. Hope for extension of time. Hope for the future welfare of the family. Hope to keep your dignity, Hope for life after life. Aside from any type of cure, or for remission , the fear of death, the difficulty in accepting what death is for the body. That there is no return, it is final and that is often hard to accept, for the person with the illness and for the loved ones. When she would initially say as her symptoms worsened what is happening to me, I can’t believe what is happening to me. What about the future. Our future. My future with our family. I had to hold back my tears, though often I was unable to do so . She would tell me it is ok ; everything will be all right. As time went on, she became more accepting of what was happening. Her emunah did not lessen, but became stronger. We spoke about hawolom hazeh and hawolom habaw. We even discussed how we could keep in touch with each other. It is those beliefs of hawolom habaw, of techias hamaysim, the beliefs of the neshama the tefilos we have in our Shemone Esrei, mechayei hameisim, the observance of the yartzeit, the neshama should have an aliya, yizkor, the essence of the kaddish, the yartzeit candle, doing mitzvos and Torah learning lezair neshmas. Death is final for the body, but not the soul. It is often hard for us to comprehend and often to accept that a loved one will no longer be with us after death- that our loved one is no longer here physically, but spiritually lives on and becoming closer to the Kisay HaKavod. There is so much to be grateful for. Yet, there is a need for grief and bereavement. There is a need for tears. There is a need for morning. And there is a need for the belief and love in the Holy One. That there is a purpose and meaning for everything.
I am sharing with you a poem by Jamey Wysocki which was given to me by the wonderful bereavement
staff at MJHS Hospice and Palliative Care. “ I Am Learning How To Live”
I am learning how to live
In a new way
Since that day
You were taken away.
I am learning how to live
With the things left unsaid
Knowing I got to say them
With every tear that I shed.
I am learning how to live
By embracing the pain
Knowing that you live on
Through the memories that remain.
I am learning how to live
Knowing I will never again see your face
And I have peace knowing
You’re in a better place.
I am learning how to live
Knowing you’re in G’s care
It gives me the strength to move on
And makes the pain much easier to bear.
Before I conclude, I am including a beautiful quote my wife gave me and requested I include in my articles I wrote which I dedicated to her for a refuah shelaimah. She smiled when she said it to me and was so happy, I was going to include it in my article for everyone to read. I am sharing it with you again. “ When things look blue it helps to remember that tomorrow is another day and will be a brighter day” That is how she lived her life for as long as she could. There is an underlying message in that quote- to have emunah, hope and faith in the Ribono Shel Olom for the days ahead, as she sincerely believed in. She gave me that quote only a few weeks before she died. May we be zoche the coming of Moshiach, techias hamaisim and the geula shelaima bekawrov amin sela.
The Rabbinical Alliance of America—Igud HaRabbonim, representing over 950 American Orthodox Rabbis—calls on the Black Lives Movement to purge anti-Semitism from its platform.
The Rabbinical Alliance of America recognizes that the tragic events that led to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have spurred a much-needed conversation on racism. As a nation, we have an obligation to engage in this important discussion which hopefully will lead to concrete policy proposals and constructive solutions to eradicate racism from our nation once and for all.
The Rabbinical Alliance of America has concerns with anti-Semitism within the ranks of the Black Lives Matter movement. Recently, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic slogans were expressed during a July 1, 2020, march held in Washington DC. The marchers carried Black Lives Matter and pro-Palestinian signs. Protestors at the demonstration chanted, “Israel, we know you, you murder children, too.” The demonstration was billed as an event in support of the Days of Rage called by the Palestinian Authority and other groups to protest Israel’s consideration of proclaiming sovereignty over parts of the West Bank.
The march, from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol building, referred to Israel as a, “puppet master of continents,” an old conspiracy theory alleging that Jews rule the world. The marchers equated the Israeli occupation of the West Bank with genocide. Nothing can be further from the truth. Israel does not engage in genocide and has no intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. There is no sound logical nor legal basis to compare Israeli occupation of the West Bank to genocides of the 20th century, such as those in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, or Armenia, or the Nazi Holocaust in Europe. Each of these travesties constituted a devious, calculated and evil plan to destroy specific ethnic groups, and each of these crimes against humanity killed hundreds of thousands to millions of innocent people who were murdered solely for who they were. Israeli does not systematically kill anyone and any claims to that effect are merely nefarious lies used to stir hatred. Further, the Black Lives Matter platform fails to address the use of violence by Hamas, including the rocket attacks against Israeli civilians that Human Rights Watch has classified as a war crime.
A review of the platform of the Black Lives Matter revels that the movement labels Israel an “apartheid state.” Black Lives Matter has joined with the BDS movement in calling for the total academic, cultural, and economic boycott of Israel, a demand made for no other country.
Israel is not an Apartheid State. Apartheid was the official South African policy that sought to maintain a complete political and social separation between the white and black population of South Africa. Under South African Apartheid, blacks were not permitted to eat in white restaurants or cafes; to attend white schools or universities; to be treated in white hospitals; to live in white neighborhoods; to serve in the white government or judiciary.
Anyone familiar with Israel knows that there is no such apartheid segregation in Israel. Israeli Arab citizens are full citizens. They attend all of Israel’s universities. They can seek medical treatment in all of Israel’s hospitals. They are employed by the Israeli government and by its judiciary and are welcomed at all of Israel’s restaurants and cafes. Furthermore, Palestinian Arabs residing in the West Bank live under the political control of the Palestinian Authority and enjoy the full range of rights guaranteed by the Palestinian Authority. Clearly, it is an erroneous conclusion to compare Israel to an Apartheid state.
Therefore, the Rabbinical Alliance of America calls on the Black Lives Matter movement to purge itself of inaccurate and anti-Semitic policies and platforms. By doing so, the Black Lives Matter movement will be taking the righteous step in advancing and advocating the elimination of racism and bigotry as we sadly know it, a change that the Rabbinical Alliance of America supports whole-heartedly.
Nike came up with a great expression used in all of their advertisements that has had a profound influence on the world. Their motto is “Just do it”. I say to the State of Israel and to the U.S. Administration in reference to applying Sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley, “Just do it”. This is the right time. The longer one waits the more the naysayers have time to apply pressure and make trouble.
If one looks back at the move of the Embassy to Jerusalem and the annexation of the Golan Heights, President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu did not allow the critics enough time to complain publically and gain steam. They just flat out did it. Once done there was barely a whimper from all the various factions now entering the fray.
Prime Netanyahu’s announcement that he was holding off even though the process was supposed to begin on July 1st just took some wind out of Sovereignty’s sails. I hope, not for too long.
It is important to point out that all of the opposing forces have ulterior motives. Once Sovereignty is applied to Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley all of these will stop flexing their Laryngeal muscles.
Let’s start with the Gulf Oil States. Thus far only the UAE has piped up and publically criticized “Annexation”.
By far and away the overriding concern and fear of Iran dictates how the Gulf States behave vis a vis Israel. Once “Sovereignty” is done the dependence on Israel and the U.S. for protection against Iranian Aggression will rule the day. Therefore, there is no need to worry about Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, or Oman causing getting in the way.
As far as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and her comrades blasting Israel, what else is new? She jumps on the Anti-Israel bandwagon every chance she gets. The majority of Democrats do not agree with her on Israel. This could conceivably change. It is even more reason to get the job done now while Israel has the most gracious, most giving, and most sympathetic U.S. President in the White House ever.
As far as Defense Minister Benny Gantz, he had agreed to extending Sovereignty as part of his working agreement with Prime Minister Netanyahu going into the Unity talks. Although, he seems to be backing off and attaching conditions like saying King Abdullah of Jordan has to agree, General Gantz will eventually have to fulfill his promise. He fully well knows that Prime Minister Netanyahu will not hesitate to call for a 4th election.
Then comes Prime Minister Boris Johnson who is a true friend of Israel. I believe his opposition to “Annexation” is based purely upon his power struggles post Covid 19 in Great Britain. He lost significant power as a result of the Coronavirus and he is trying to shore up support in a country which has many who despise Israel no matter what including a heavy Muslim population.
As far as President Trump is concerned applying Sovereignty now can only help him in his bid to be re-elected.
For starters it will continue his legacy of fulfilling all that his predecessors failed to do vis a vis Israel and should have done. His unwavering support of Israel will be one of his greatest crowning achievements of his Presidency. Applying Sovereignty just makes his case that much stronger.
Although the New York Times (6/23/20) downplays the significance in the Evangelical World of “Annexation”, that is very far from the truth. “Annexation” will fire up his Evangelical Base like nobody’s business. He needs them to come out to vote like never before.
It will also increase his support among Jewish voters. Although the President has overwhelming support among Orthodox voters, his strong Pro-Israel moves have caught the attention of quite a few Non-Orthodox voters in key battleground States.
Just as Mayor Rudy Giuliani did in New York City when he captured 60% of the Jewish vote in 1993 and was able to push it to 72% in 1997 because of his Pro-Israel stand, I believe the President can certainly improve from 24% of the Jewish vote in 2016 to a much higher percentage this time around. The Jewish vote can tip the balance in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. “Annexation” or Sovereignty as I would like to call it can indeed provide the impetus and momentum for President Trump to triumph in November.