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September 17, '20
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:
• Candle Lighting Times
• New York State COVID -19 Interim Guidance for Jewish High Holidays Observances
• Divrei Torah Rosh Hashanah
• The Rabbinical Alliance of America Calls On the Trump Administration to Bring Hamada and Abu Zayed to Justice for the Killing of Americans in a 1982 Terrorist Attack in Paris
• Upcoming Yarhtzeits 1 Tishrei-8 Tishrei
• Chaplaincy Commission Update
• New Publication: Minchas Asher on Yomim Noraim During Corona
• Time to Fortify the Rabbanut

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

Candle Lighting Times


New York State COVID -19 Interim Guidance for Jewish High Holidays Observances





Divrei Torah Rosh Hashanah

Rav Asher Weiss - Rosh Hashanah 5781
Rav Asher Weiss - Rosh Hashanah 5781
Rosh Hashanah - Rabbi Ziegler 5781
Bluziver Rebbe - Rosh Hashana 5780
Rosh Hashana - Rabbi Hecht 5739
Rosh Hashanah - Rabbi Student 5780
Rosh Hashana - Rabbi Kirsch 5769
Rosh Hashana - Rabbi Rokeach 5715
Rosh Hashana - Rabbi Kirsh 5774
Rosh Hashana - Rabbi Kirsch 5770
Rosh Hashana - Rabbi Kirsh 5772


The Rabbinical Alliance of America Calls On the Trump Administration to Bring Hamada and Abu Zayed to Justice for the Killing of Americans in a 1982 Terrorist Attack in Paris

The Rabbinical Alliance of America—Igud HaRabbonim, representing over 950 American Rabbis—calls on the Trump administration to bring notorious accused terrorists Hamada and Abu Zayed to justice for the reported murder of Americans in a 1982 terrorist attack in Paris. On Aug. 9, 1982, two Palestinian terrorists—Nizar Tawfiq Mussa Hamada and Walid Abdulrahman Abu Zayed—reportedly fired submachine guns and threw hand grenades at the Jo Goldenberg restaurant in the Jewish quarter of Paris. Six people were murdered and 22 wounded. The six murdered victims were Mohamed Bennemou, André Hezkia Niego, Grace Cuter, Anne Van Zanten, Denise Guerche Rossignol, and Georges Demeter.

Two of the murdered victims were Americans from Chicago: 66-year-old Grace Cutler and 31-year-old Ann Van Zanten, the curator of architectural collections at the Chicago Historical Society. Ann’s husband, David, a professor at Northwestern University, was among the injured.

Sadly, Hamada and Abu Zayed escaped. However, United States law permits the arrest and capture of foreign terrorists who have killed Americans in order to bring them to the United States for trial and punishment. For unknown reasons, the United States government has failed to act and shockingly has never shown any interest in apprehending and bringing to justice the murderers of Grace Cutler and Ann Van Zanten. Hamada and Abu Zayed are not even included in the State Department’s “Rewards for Justice” program, which offers rewards for information leading to the capture of killers of Americans abroad.

In March 2015, France revealed that Hamada and Abu Zayed were living a good life in Norway, and that two other terrorists reportedly connected to the attack, Mahmoud Khader Abed and Zuhair al-Abbasi, were living in the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, respectively. To protect al-Abbasi, the Jordanians “arrested” him and then quickly released him on bail.

That year, the Obama administration gave the Palestinian Authority $500 million in aid. Yet it never demanded that the PA hand over Abed. The Trump administration currently gives Jordan $1.5 billion annually. Yet it has never demanded that Jordan hand over al-Abbasi. Nor does it demand extradition in the similar case of Ahmed Tamimi, who was reportedly involved in the murder of Malki Roth in the Sbarro restaurant bombing on Aug. 9, 2001 in Jerusalem, which killed 15 civilians, including seven children and a pregnant woman, and wounded 130.

The French government asked Norway to surrender Abu Zayed but the Norwegians refused. The United States, which does more than $12 billion in trade annually with Norway, did not step up to bring justice to Grace and Ann by demanding that Norway surrender the accused terrorists.

In recent weeks, the French government obtained additional information about Abu Zayed and renewed its request to extradite him. At the moment, he is in Norwegian custody while the authorities there consider the French request.

Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America stated, “As Americans, we have a moral and ethical obligation to take all appropriate steps necessary to bring Hamada and Abu Zayed to the United States to be tried and held accountable for killing Grace Cutler and Ann Van Zanten. It is very disturbing that Norway has so far refused to extradite these men accused of cold-blooded murder. We call on the Trump Administration to take all necessary steps to see to it that justice is served. American blood cannot be cheap. At minimum, Hamada and Abu Zayed should be immediately placed on the “Reward for Justice” program in order to signal to the world that the United States does not take the killing of its citizens lightly. The United States must send a resoundingly strong message that killing and injuring Americans will not be tolerated. Would-be terrorists must know that if they attack Americans, this great country will do whatever is necessary to apprehend and punish the perpetrators. 

“We further call on the Trump Administration to sanction any nation that aids, abets, assists or harbors in any way any terrorist involved in a terrorist attack against Americans. The Trump Administration should look at the appropriate sanctions that can be imposed on Norway, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority in connection to their part in helping evade justice terrorists who injure or kill Americans.”



Upcoming Yarhtzeits 1 Tishrei-8 Tishrei


Chaplaincy Commission Update

From the desk of Rabbi Leonard(Yehuda) Blank MS, BCC
Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
September 17, 2020

This is the last article for the year 5780 Erev Rosh Hashana 5781. As, I began writing this article, I received a call Motzei Shabbos that Mrs Devorah Leah Hecht A”H daughter of HaRav Yeshaya and Rebbitzen Rita Siff well known and beloved Rav and Rebbetzin of the Young Israel of Manhattan on the Lower East Side, the wife of Rabbi Pinchus Hecht, Executive Director of Mirrer Yeshiva, the sister of Rabbi Yisrael Moshe Siff, Rabbi Azriel Siff of the historic Chasan Sofer synagogue on the Lower East Side, Rabbi Reuven Siff and Mrs. Pennina Mezi. She leaves a family of wonderful daughters and son Yosef Chaim who I wrote about the Asher the Yatzar video in one of my recent articles and the wonderful chizuk he gave through his own medical and spiritual experiences. Mrs. Hecht was a remarkable woman and so well loved by all who got to know her through the years personally or were touched by her many maysim tovim. She will be sorely missed by her family, the faculty and student body at TAG in Far Rockaway , the Far Rockaway community and Klal Yisrael.

So many have left Hawolom Hazeh to Hawolom Haba this year. On Yom Kippur and Shemini Atzeres the Yizkor is recited, We remember those who are no longer with us and we do not forget- not only in memories, but by giving tzedakah, reciting the kaddish, and many other mitzvos. We dedicate our lives for their neshamos, but also for ourselves as well. It is so easy to forget we are in the presence of our Heilika Tatte, our Holy Father, the Ribono Shel Olom, the Aibershta. We know He loves us, though it can be challenging, even difficult when things happen or our loved ones leave us, often when we least expect it. It hits us now Elul, by selichos, the Yomim Nearim, Aseres Yemai Tshuva, and Hoshana Rabba. We renew our closeness to H with all of our maysim tovim.

When I will return home the first night of Rosh Hashana, I will miss greeting my wife with the phrase of leshana tova tikawsaiv…….though just as, I recite the Friday night Aishis Chayil, I will greet my wife in spirit. I must continue not to forget where her neshama is. We are often reminded through various events, personal and otherwise that each day is precious, never knowing what will happen the next day, or anytime throughout the year. That is why we should not take anything for granted.

In my apartment, amongst the many pictures I have with my dear and beloved Aishis Chayil ,Keila Lutza bas Shalom HaKohen A”H, is the last official pictures of us together taken at the Siyum Hashas, just four months before she died. Looking at that picture one would not believe she was seriously ill. In the background you notice the thousands who were also there. All the naysayers who said it couldn’t be done. No one will come to a stadium if it is very cold and on the secular new year when no one wants to be out especially driving a car or taking public transportation. My wife was so proud to be there, together with all the thousands of others and especially proud because a son Rabbi Naftali Miller who is the National Director of Development for Agudath Israel was part of the team instrumental in the success of this magnificent event. My wife and I were so proud of this major accomplishment, but you could never tell by looking at my wife what she was going through. Both of us made up not to share with anyone how she was feeling, as she did not want to put a damper on this magnificent and exciting event. She was active as could be until the last month of her life when slowly things started to change. Even up to the last days she had that beautiful and bright sparkle and twinkle in her eyes, her smile so ever glowing, her heart continued to be filled with love and care for everyone in the family and most of all -her love of H. The last night of her life, I brought the candle to her as she lay in bed and said the brachos with her that Shavuos evening and then I lit all the candles for her. When we looked at each other especially the last days and nights of her life was so special, as if we were silently communicating our relationship with each other. I shall not forget. Even as tears roll down my cheek writing this ,yet, I look back and have so much appreciation to the Aibershta for giving her so many wonderful things that gave her simchas hachayim which I shared in previous articles and the strength throughout her life for all the remarkable mitzvos she did until the very end. She was so humble and modest. It was against her grain to be put on a pedestal for anything good she did and she always reminded me the same. She kept in one of our closets albums of our accomplishments, newspaper clippings, pictures, awards ,plaques, diplomas, degrees and certificates etc. Always a reminder that we are not any worthy than anyone else. Whatever we are able to accomplish in life, is to serve Hakadosh Boruch Hu and to thank Him for those opportunities to do so. The biggest joy was to have nachas from our children , grandchildren and great grandchild . We are all here on this world for a period of time, and we are mispallel He should give us the opportunities to fulfill whatever is necessary to have a meaningful life filled with all the brachos and much simchas hachayim this coming New Year and for 120 years. The Aibershta gave her those opportunities and even though at one point a short time before her demise when she was sadden after her final prognosis that all was coming to an end. She then rebounded with hakawros hatov to the Ribono Shel Olom even with changing medical challenges and to continue doing mitzvos for as long as possible.

How should we be humble, how should we feel we are all equals. How should we feel about others I am quoting the following from Lilmud Ulilamaid From The teachings Of Our Sages. By Rabbi Mordechai Katz from the Jewish Education Program.“ You are standing this day, all of you, before H your G and your officers, all the men of Israel. Your little ones, your wives, your stranger that is in your camp, from the cutter of your wood to the drawer of your water. (Dvorim, 29: 9-10}. So begins Parshas Nitzavim. This passage notes that all members of Klal Yisrael, from the greatest leader to the simplest wood cutter, stood together as equals before H. This was a dramatic proof that to H each individual, no matter what his station in life, has the same potential for spiritual greatness. Every person can, in his own way, rise to the summit of holiness. Thus, the poor woodchopper who is devout in his ways and who raises his children as true Jews is elevated to the same level as the wealthy supporter of Jewish causes. No man ( I would also include no woman) should consider himself too insignificant to be a partner in the Covenant between the Jews and H. On Rosh Hashana, Rabbi Levi Yizchok of Berditchev rose to blow the Shofar, He ascended the Bimah, led the congregation in the prayers of Lamenatzeiach and Min Hameitzar, and then waited until the congregation stood silently and expectantly. All waited without a sound for the blowing of the Shofar to commence. Then, to their consternation, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok stopped, removed the Shofar from his lips, and put it down. He seemed to be pausing, waiting for something to happen. The people grew restless. Had the great Rabbi forgotten what to do? Finally, he smiled, and began to offer an explanation. My dear friends, he said, in the rear of the shul today sits a Jew who spent his early years among the gentiles. He had been kidnapped as a child, brought up by a gentile family, and placed into the king’s army. When he was 40 years old, he was finally freed and allowed to return to his people. This man had not been inside a shul since he was a youngster, until he joined us today. He could not possibly remember the prayers that he heard so long ago, and yet, he was overcome with emotion at his return to the House of G. He yearned to join in the expressions of devotion to the Holy One, Blessed be He. And so, I saw him speaking the only remnants Hebrew that he recalled from his youth, the letters of the Alef Bais. But he said these with such feeling that they have risen straight to the heavens. I therefore paused before blowing the Shofar so that the letters would have time to reach H Yisbarach, Who will Himself form them into the words of our prayers. Now we can begin the blowing of the Shofar.” To the Rabbi what mattered was this man’s devotion that counted not his lack of knowledge. Someone once asked HaGaon Harav Mosh Feinstein about being like the Vilna Gaon or Rabbi Akiva. To paraphrase his response, not everyone has the same potentials in their abilities of learning, but everyone has the potentials of reaching high levels in emunah and betachen in the Aibershta. In Pirkei Avos, chapter 4;17 “ Rabbi Shimon says, three crowns are there, the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood and the crown of kingship, but the crown of a good name rises over them all” “But the crown of a good name. This crown adorns someone whose deeds and behavior earn him the respect and affection of his fellows. Even scholars, priests, and kings are lacking if they fail to earn this crown (Artscroll Series, The Schottenstein Edition Siddur with an Interlinear Translation. Mesorah Heritage Foundation). Though we often use the words him and his, the same applies for women in having a good name, having emunah and betachen, and devotion to H. Both men and women have the same wonderful opportunities of being Mekadeish H.

I mentioned Rav Yeshaya and Rebbetzin Siff, parents of Mrs. Devorah Leah Siff A”H in my first paragraph in this article. They are so beloved throughout the Lower East Side. Rav Siff and his Rebbitzen have been instrumental in helping guide, educate, and inspire generations of mispallim. They helped weave and craft the Young Israel of the Lower East Side to a beautiful and meaningful relationship with the Aibershta bringing pride and joy to community residents. What is so endearing about Rav and Rebbetzin Siff is how modest and humble they are, caring and respectful to one and all. Rav Siff was a military chaplain years ago and still retains that aura of what a chaplain was and is all about. Both Rav Siff and Rav Zvi Romm who I wrote about in my last weeks article are renown in Yeshiva University. Rav Siff has since retired, but still respected in the halls of Yeshiva University, as is Rav Romm, both Rabbaim held in high esteem by the talmidim, faculty and hanhala of YU. Rav Siff who was at YU for 50 years also held the prestigious Schottenstein Family Chair as Associate Professor of Talmud. Rav Siff until COVID-19 came to visit, in addition to his shiurim, would also be found in the Yeshiva MTJ bais medrash learning. His relationship with the HaGaon HaRav Dovid Feinstein continues and he is one of the senior rabbonim In the Lower East Side.

In last weeks article and earlier articles I wrote about different aspects of 9/11. However, I do want to make mention about one of the victims who made the supreme sacrifice of his own life, making one of the greatest kiddush H to such a degree, that former President George Bush spoke about him that year. This persons name and picture was a blazed on television, news media, and heard on the radio the world over. He was and still is a role model of being a modest and humble person the years he was alive as he will always be for years to come.

In Memory of Avremel (Abe) Zelmanowitz HYD, 9/11 Terror Victim
September 11, 2020 8:55 am

When the terror attack occurred, Avremel was fifty-five; his friend Ed, a quadriplegic, was forty-two. Both worked at Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield as program analysts on the 27th floor of One World Trade Center.

By Chavie Zelmanowitz (sister-in-law), as told to Bayla Sheva Brenner

On the morning of 9/11, Avremel davened in the same shul with my husband, Yankel, which was unusual. Usually, whenever they said goodbye, they would shake hands. That morning, however, Avremel came toward Yankel and hugged him tightly before he left for work.

While driving home after taking me to work, Yankel heard that something had happened at the World Trade Center. He tried to call Avremel. I also tried. We couldn’t get through. Then Avremel called Yankel. He said, “I’m here with Ed. We’re waiting for help and then we’re going to leave.” Yankel called me and said, “I heard from Avremel—he’s going to leave.” I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I got a phone call from Avremel. I asked, “Where are you calling from? I thought you were on your way home.” He reassured me that the air was clear where they were, on the 27th floor. “I’m waiting here with Ed for someone to come help.” He said that Ed wanted to wait for a medical team, because in the past when people lifted him improperly, his bones would break.

Edward Beyea, who became disabled after a diving accident at age twenty-one, was a large man. He used a wheelchair with all kinds of contraptions. He had no arm or leg function, and operated his computer with a mouth stick. An aide accompanied him at all times. The normal routine was that the aide would bring him to work, set him up in his cubicle, and go up to the 43rd floor to the cafeteria. That’s where she was when the plane hit. There was water coming down, things were falling, smoke was filling the room. She immediately ran back down the staircase to the 27th floor and found the two of them together. Avremel assured her that he would stay with Ed and that she should leave. She barely made it out. Avremel is responsible for her survival.

Avremel told me, “The fireman is here and he wants me to move to another area.” That was the last we heard from him. No one had any idea that the buildings were going to go down. He didn’t stay to die; he stayed to help. That was his intention.

Avremel and Ed had worked together for twelve years. They traded books and tapes and played chess together. Avremel was a master carpenter; he built Ed a cigar stand and a book stand so that he would be able to read in bed. He used to visit Ed during his numerous hospitalizations. It was a friendship that culminated with this extraordinary act.

Initially our son-in-law made up a flyer; everyone was posting flyers for missing relatives. The flyer mentioned that Avremel was together with a quadriplegic friend. Immediately, we were bombarded by reporters. They wanted to hear details of the story. We were interviewed on a few news programs, at one point three in one day. A week after 9/11, our rav told us it was time to sit shivah. Rescuers were not finding anyone alive any longer. We knew Avremel had been in the building at the time. It was time to make a decision.

By Yankel (Jack) Zelmanowitz (brother), as told to Bayla Sheva Brenner

Avremel lived with us. When my parents went to Eretz Yisrael in 1973, just before the Yom Kippur War, he moved in. I was his big brother; I’m twelve and a half years older. We were very close. I took him into the textile business with me, and then he learned programming. He was really a wonderful human being. He had a lot of friends. Always friendly, always doing ma’asim tovim, favors for people, giving tzedakah, going to shiurim; everybody liked him. He was a simple guy who never looked for praise. His death made such a roshem, such an impression on people. Letters came in from people all over the world. A woman in Canada contacted us. She has a son with cerebral palsy who was fifteen-years-old at the time. She worried about him going into the workforce. “I hope I meet someone like Abe,” her son said.

That week, when President Bush spoke, he mentioned Avremel. He said: “We are here in the middle hour of our grief. So many have suffered so great a loss, and today we express our nation’s sorrow. . . . We have seen our national character in eloquent acts of sacrifice. Inside the World Trade Center, one man who could have saved himself stayed until the end at the side of his quadriplegic friend.”

My son, Chaim Shaul, was there when the president came the week of 9/11 to visit Ground Zero. He was told to stay behind to tell the story to the president. He called us and asked what he should do since it was erev Shabbos and time was short. We said, “Stay as long as you can, leaving yourself enough time to get home for Shabbos.” In the end, he had to leave before speaking with the president. We received a phone call from the president’s staff. “We’re looking for your son to meet the president,” they said.

On the first anniversary of 9/11, all of the victims’ families were at Ground Zero. The president spent time mingling with the families and made special time for us. He is a person with a heart; he is very compassionate. He didn’t know what to do for us.

Avremel’s actions that day are what defined him. He lived his entire life that way, always caring about people, always anticipating people’s needs. You wouldn’t have to ask Avremel for something; he’d understand that it had to be done and he’d go and do it. This was who he was. He was an extremely devoted son; his kibbud av va’eim was extraordinary. He never married or had children, but our children and grandchildren are following in his footsteps in their gemilut chasadim. How proud he would be to know that.

We were called upon to speak about Avremel very often—at shuls, dinners, et cetera. A library at a nearby yeshivah was dedicated to him. We were constantly on call; that helped us get through the initial period.

In August 2002, the police came to our home to inform us that they had identified Avremel’s remains. We were able to have a kevurah. He had always wanted to be buried in Israel; we asked someone to arrange for a plot on Har Zeisim. When we got there, we were amazed that he had found a plot available right at the foot of our parents’ graves.

In 2006, a street was dedicated to Avremel. The street, on the corner of East 35th Street and Kings Highway [in Brooklyn], our corner, was renamed Abe (Avremel) Zelmanowitz Way. One of the speakers at the dedication, Rabbi Shlomo Zucker, said it is so fitting that the street is called “way” rather than “lane,” “drive,” or “street,” because Avremel showed us the way to live, the way a person should conduct his life, and how he should interact with Hashem and his fellow man. That is his legacy. He led by example.

We have letters from people he worked with. One of his colleagues wrote, “We knew he was a religious man, but he never preached. He was always aware, thinking ahead, thinking of others.”

The effect that Avremel continues to have is amazing. After I heard the news about Bin Laden, I wanted to go down to Ground Zero. It was a relief; we felt a need to share it with those who had lost family members, to be close to them. While we were on the train to Manhattan, my son called us. He said he just got a call from NBC News. They wanted to interview us, find out about our feelings. Avremel’s story is out there.

While at Ground Zero, we must have given twelve or fifteen interviews. Reporters from all over sought us out, wanting to hear the story. We told them the story of Avremel. We always try to point out that it was an Orthodox Jew and a non-Jewish friend and this is what Avremel did because of his friendship.

The Shabbos before 9/11, Avremel had gone to a shiur. He was a very reserved person. He wasn’t pushy in any way. When the rav started to speak about Kiddush Hashem, Avremel interrupted him and said, “How could an ordinary person make a Kiddush Hashem?” He got an answer but wasn’t satisfied. Avremel interrupted him another time; again, the rav gave him an answer. Then he asked a third time. It wasn’t like Avremel to do that. Three days later, he got his answer.

Every rav has told us the same thing: it’s an obligation to perpetuate Avremel’s story. No matter how painful it is for us, we do it l’shem Shamayim. I feel it is our responsibility to perpetuate his Kiddush Hashem.

Chavie and Yankel Zelmanowitz live in Brooklyn, New York.

Excerpted from Jewish Action, fall 2011

For me as it will be for so many whose loved ones are not with us these forthcoming days of holiness and joy, it will be much different. For the millions the world over, these holy days will surely be different in the synagogues we will be attending such as social distancing, seating arrangements, in door and outdoor minyanim, shortened drashos, less singing, Kaparos and Tashlich might be different ,and of course mask vs no mask wearing. What about communal sukkos, hakafos with the arba minim and Simchas Torah etc. ? What is being done throughout the world is trying to make things as normal, spiritual, meaningful and as comfortable as possible. Our heartfelt concerns and feelings for those in Eretz Yisrael with a nationwide lockdown that might be occurring now until after Sukkos.

There might very well be individuals who are not attending any minyanim and are home bound. It is also possible for some of those individuals might need shopping or cooked meals. I can tell you of an elderly couple who recently were told by their doctor not to attend any services if they could avoid going or at least make sure to wear a mask, to attend a synagogue were everyone is wearing a mask and social distancing. This couple, especially the husband has serious medical conditions and even though the chances of contracting the coronavirus might be small, nevertheless the doctor does not want to take any chances. With all the different opinions mask vs no mask, in door or out door minyanim one could say it is quite confusing- at least it’s not “Fiddler On The Roof”. But it really isn’t. All someone has to do is speak to their doctor and speak to their rav. Since most of our readership are rabbonim, then you will be guiding your mispallim what to do and or to speak to their doctors for their advice.

May the dreadful disease and all illnesses be eradicated forever. May we continue to be free of any and all machlokes and be zoche to have Shalom al Yisrael. May we be zoche Moshiach Tzedkeinu Bimheiraw Veyawmainu, the Geula Sheleimaw Bikarov Venomar Amain. Sincerely Yehuda Blank

Kesiva Vechasima Tova A Shanah Tova Umesukaw.

Please read the flyers from TTI, CAHE


New Publication: Minchas Asher on Yomim Noraim During Corona

HaGaon Rav Asher Weiss, through his Machon Minchas Asher, published a booklet of tshuvos about the Yomim Noraim in the age of Coronavirus.

Questions include:
* If, when and how to shorten the davening
* Covering the shofar
* Fasting on Yom Kippur with Coronavirus
* Taking a lulav with gloves
and more

Click here to download

Minchas Asher Yamim Noraim Corona


Time to Fortify the Rabbanut

by Rav Dr. Joseph Frager, Chairman of RAA/Igud’s Israel Advocacy Commission

Historically, the Jewish People have always done better when their political leaders have gotten behind their Rabbinical leaders. One of the reasons for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s success and longevity has been his respect and rapport with Rabbinical leaders. It should not be lost on or forgotten by future Prime Ministers. It is to Ben Gurion’s credit that he had a close relationship with first Chief Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook of Blessed Memory. It is also a remarkable feat that Ben Gurion continued the Chief Rabbinate and handed over control of marriages, conversions, divorce and Kashrut after the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Z’L envisioned the Chief Rabbinate as a position as follows: “The Rabbanut will have an impact by virtue of its constant efforts to bring people together, to inject a spirit of harmony among all parties and factions, and to strengthen the Torah and its honor in the Holy Land and throughout the world.” It is up to all of us to achieve this lofty goal.

The Jewish People today are truly blessed to have two of the finest Chief Rabbi’s to ascend to the position in Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau, and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef. Both are sons of Great Rabbis-Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef T’ZL.

I had the pleasure, honor, and privilege of meeting and spending time with the Father’s and their sons.

Rabbi David Lau and Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef are Rabbis of great vision, wisdom, and renown.

The Jewish People the world over would do well to follow them and fortify them. In this period of introspection before the High Holy Days it is fitting and proper to address the state of the Rabbanut.

Centralized Rabbinical authority is a necessity to keep our people on the straight and Torah true path. The Chief Rabbinate was created in order to do just that. In every generation we must try to strengthen Rabbinical Authority. Unfortunately, my sense is that the opposite has occurred. This has led to turmoil in conversions, divorce, and matchmaking/Shidduchim. The Agunah problem has gotten worse. I have seen the train wrecks produced by lack of centralized Rabbinical authority.

The Rabbanut can help be a guiding light and hand. It is precisely the centralized authority we all need and seek. Both Israeli and Diaspora Rabbis must try to unite behind the Rabbanut.

I saw an instance of this happen in 2014 when three religious boys, Naftali Frenkel, Gilead Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah were abducted and murdered. Both Rabbi Lau and Rabbi Yosef were extremely helpful in dealing with this crisis. I brought Governor Mike Huckabee to visit both of them and they had a major impact on him. As a result Mike Huckabee did an interview with Fox News with the mother of Naftali Frenkel that had tremendous impact across the globe. It was one of the crucial factors that led Israel to go to war against Hamas in Operation Protective Edge.

The Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim has close ties to the Rabbanut and is doing its share to fortify the vital functions and activities of the Rabbanut. I hope I can help in those praiseworthy and crucial efforts.


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