By Rabbi Zev Farber

The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, recently reported:

The Israeli Chief Rabbinate has recently rejected the applications of several Orthodox Jewish converts who have applied to live in Israel. This rejection has been reported widely in the Jewish media, and has generated much discussion--and anger, frustration, disgust. These cases are being appealed, and we hope that these converts will indeed be allowed to settle in Israel as Jews.

The Chief Rabbinate only accepts Orthodox conversions performed under their jurisdiction and/or with their express approval. Orthodox rabbis who refuse to bend to the will of the Chief Rabbinate are excluded from the Chief Rabbinate's "approved" list.

This policy is problematic on many levels.

We've all been reading of tensions in Israel due to the "Hareidization" of standards of conduct involving women and men. Serious problems have emerged in Bet Shemesh, because some Hareidim were disparaging and spitting at a modern Orthodox girl who was dressed modestly--but not according to Hareidi norms. There has been a long ongoing battle over public buses where the Hareidim demand that women sit in the back and the men in the front. They allow no intermingling of the genders, so they impose their values on everyone else.

The Puah Institute, specializing in medical research on women's health and especially on fertility issues, recently held a conference, but would not allow female doctors to present papers or to be on panels.

(Rabbi Finkelman is a member of the International Rabbinic Fellowship. He earned his rabbinic ordination at Yeshiva University, and has a PhD in Comparative Literature from the City University of New York. He teaches literature at Lawrence Technological University, as well as adult education classes in his local Federation.)

The Jerusalem Post and other media reported that a leader of "Women of the Wall" was arrested at the Kotel in Jerusalem for raising her voice in song and prayer. She, together with a group of hundreds of women, have been attempting to gain the right for women to pray at the Kotel, each according to her preferred style of prayer--with prayer shawls, chanting aloud, reading from the Torah etc.

The arrested woman was kept in prison overnight, and complained that she was treated as though she were a notorious and dangerous criminal.

This article appears in Haaretz, February 8, 2013:

Reflections on the Conversion Crisis and the Rabbanut.
By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

(Rabbi Angel is Founder and Director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals (; and Rabbi Emeritus of the historic Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of New York City, founded 1654. Author and editor of 31 books, he is Past President of the Rabbinical Council of America (Orthodox), and a co-founder of the International Rabbinic Fellowship, an association of modern Orthodox rabbis.)

The Jewish world has lost one of its most colorful, exciting and challenging rabbis and teachers. Rabbi Dr. Maurice Wohlgelernter, known popularly among his students as "The Reb," passed away on Saturday night June 22, 2013.

I first met The Reb in September 1963, as a freshman in his English 101 class at Yeshiva College. He was an astonishing teacher. He demanded clarity in our writing, marking each of our papers with an overly active red pen. He crushed our egos with his harsh grades--but he taught us, and taught us very well. To get an A from The Reb made it all worth while!

(Ronald Stekel was an active member of the British Jewish community before having made Aliyah.)

There are groups of Jews whose Rabbinic leaders have banned aspects of modern technology. One can see them with posters that cry out that they have no internet or computers, and they are proud of this. They believe it to be an ideal to be emulated by other Jews. I believe that it is dreadful.

When Noah left the ark he planted a vineyard and the Torah describes how he subsequently got drunk, and the demeaning events that followed. It would have been understandable if the Torah had banned alcohol but instead the Torah sets out a totally different approach.

A story is told of the great Hassidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev. He had been visiting a town and attended prayer services in the local synagogue. One day, he stopped at the synagogue door and did not enter the sanctuary. The many people who were accompanying him were perplexed. Why did the Rebbe not enter the synagogue? Rabbi Levi Yitzhak told them: “I am not entering the synagogue because it's too crowded.” But the synagogue was empty! The Rebbe explained: “The synagogue is full of prayers, there's no room left for us.