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Fault Lines Ahead

Binyamin Rose

For two decades, the religious character of the Jewish state has been facing a slow, steady erosion. But now it’s intensified into an avalanche, as Conservative and Reform activists in the US are taking square aim at the Chief Rabbinate, doing their best to destabilize and weaken the sovereignty of halachah under the banner of “pluralism.” Their victories are now motivating opposing coalitions of Orthodox Jewish interests in the US and Israel to join forces. Their mission: Defend authentic Torah Judaism.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Your next Shabbos in a Jerusalem hotel might resemble the following scenario. After an inspiring Friday night davening at the Kosel, or Great Synagogue, you’ll enter the hotel lobby only to be accosted by live music or an audio-visual show. Try approaching the reception desk to register a complaint, and a Jewish employee will be too busy exchanging a German tourist’s euro for shekels to pay you any attention. If you requested a room on a high floor to enjoy a breathtaking view of the Old City, be careful which elevator you step into, because not all of the lifts will be on Shabbos mode. And if you happen to be visiting during the winter solstice, don’t be shocked if a fir tree decorated in vivid reds and greens is on prominent display. This is what Shabbos in Yerushalayim may turn into in some hotels, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling that struck down a key provision of the Chief Rabbinate’s authority. Before the ruling, the Chief Rabbinate could base its kashrus certification of an establishment on its overall religious character — and even withdraw its certification if that character did not sufficiently adhere to religious standards. Now, with its authority trimmed by the Court, the Rabbinate was compelled to relax some of its standards. The Rabbinate’s move was met with great satisfaction by Reform movement leaderUriRegev, who is today president of Hiddush, an organization that advocates liberal and pluralistic Judaism. Regev commended the move, stating: “After decades, the Chief Rabbinate ended its policy of religious coercion related to Shabbat observance and Xmas.”

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