Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

10 Shevat 5759 - Jan. 27, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







UTJ Representatives Boycott the Religious Council Meeting in Haifa

by Arye Zisman, M. Plaut and S. Baruchi

The representatives of UTJ boycotted the meeting of the religious council of Haifa in which the Conservative and Reform representatives participated. Nine other members did arrive at the meeting, but it was dispersed almost as soon as it began without any business being conducted.

At the directives of all the gedolei haTorah, seven UTJ representatives boycotted the meeting of the religious council where a Conservative and a Reform representative were present. UTJ's representatives carried out the directives of the gedolei Yisroel, precisely as maranan verabonon instructed them.

Nine representatives did come to the meeting -- five from the Mafdal, one from Shas, two from Likud and one from Labor. Immediately, at the beginning of the meeting, even before deliberations had begun, the Shas representative asked for the right to speak, and moved that the religious council meeting be dispersed without electing a chairman or deputies. The Reform representatives asked for the right to speak, and demanded that the meeting be held as ordered by the High Court. However, with a majority vote -- nine against two -- it was decided to end the meeting.

The meeting of the religious council wasn't held in its regular place in the auditorium of the Torah library on Herzog street, but in the Migdal Haifa hotel. This was done in accordance with the directive of the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, who was formerly Haifa's Chief Rabbi. His decision was joined by the Chief Rabbis of Haifa, who noted that it is not proper to seat the Reform among sifrei kodesh.

Council of the Chief Rabbinate

At the meeting on Monday -- before the Religious Council meeting in Haifa -- of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate held in Migdal Ha'Emek and open to the media, various proposals regarding how to behave at the religious council meeting in Haifa were raised. Rav Moshe Rauchberger, rav of the Ramat Hadar neighborhood of Haifa, expressed the view of gedolei Yisroel who said that it is forbidden to participate in any meeting of the religious council along with the Reform.

According to the generally accepted interpretation, at its first meeting, a new religious council needs a quorum in order to conduct business. At the second meeting, business may be conducted with as many members as are present. This means that the heretical members, if the only ones present, could completely take over the operation of the religious council. One of the important items of business that a newly convened religious council must attend to is the appointment of a chairman of the religious council, which is a salaried position.

A proposal was made to permit the participation of only four members in the meeting of the council. These members, it was suggested, would present the protest of the rabbonim, and immediately afterward vote the dispersal of the meeting. However, no decision was made on this issue, after the Religious Affairs Minister said that such decisions cannot be made at a meeting which is open to the media.

The meeting of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate was attended by its twelve members as well as by some rabbis of cities and settlements in the country's north, the chairmen of the religious councils of the large cities and other additional cities. The Chief Rabbis reiterated the view of gedolei Yisroel, not to sit with the Reform and Conservative in the religious councils.

Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron cited the opinion of gedolei Yisroel, as it appears in writing and orally, which states that absolutely no dialogue or collaboration may be held with the Reform. He told the council that the Reform movement had led to assimilation which he described as worse than the Holocaust.

Chief Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau noted that the danger of the Reform is very serious and will have a very grave affect on the future character of the Jewish Nation, and that all must be done in order to curb their influence and the gaining of a foothold in Israel, of those whose purpose is to divide and split the Jewish Nation.

With that, the Council of the Chief Rabbinate approved the decision not to sit with the Reform and Conservative in any manner whatsoever.

The secretary general of Degel HaTorah, Rabbi Moshe Gafni noted that it has once more been proven that the justices of the High Court have absolutely no interest in religious services, and couldn't care less if these services are totally destroyed. "What matters to them is to undermine all that is sacred and dear to the Jewish Nation." Rabbi Gafni praised the representatives of UTJ, who unequivocally and unanimously heeded the directives of the gedolei Yisroel.

The Rabbinical Committee of Gedolei Yisroel

In addition, there was a separate meeting of a special Rabbinical Committee appointed by gedolei Yisroel. This meeting was called in light of last week's developments. The members of the Rabbinical Committee are: HaRav Osher Neuhaus, HaRav Tzvi Friedman, HaRav Nosson Zochovsky, HaRav Chaim Dovid Shuvaks and HaRav Avrohom Hacohen.

The most urgent issue on the agenda of the Rabbinical Committee was the participation of the Torah-observant and traditional representatives in the meeting which took place this past Monday and Tuesday.

The Rabbinical Committee clarified all sides of the issue and enumerated the possible ramifications and public dangers involved. After the receipt of the guidelines of maranan verabonon the gedolei haTorah, the decision was to instruct the members of the religious councils of Haifa and Kiryat Tivon not to participate in the meetings.

Other Cities

Rabbi Shmuel Drach, a member of the Netanya Religious Council, resigned from his position due to the Netanya Council's inclusion of a Reform representative. He presented his letter of resignation a while ago, and since then has not participated in the council's meetings. The Netanya Religious Council was the first in Israel to include a Reform representative at the instructions of the High Court.

Like in Haifa, all of the members of Kiryat Tivon's religious council were absent, including the representatives of the secular parties.

The Religious Council of Tel Aviv also dispersed Monday night due to a lack of a legal quorum for holding the first meeting. 27 Torah observant representatives and representatives who appreciate the value of Jewish tradition, were demonstratively absent from the first meeting of the city's religious council, in its new make up which includes representatives of the Reform movement.

Due to the demonstrative absence of the majority of the members of the religious council -- the representatives of all of the parties-- the chairman of the council, attorney Shmuel Altalef, announced the closing of the meeting due to the lack of a legal quorum and said he will shortly send invitations for the forthcoming meeting of the council.

Altalef told a Reform clergyman who was present: "We are not afraid of you or of your methods, because within a half a generation you will vanish from the face of the earth due to the assimilation taking place in your very own midst."

In response to the question of Yated Ne'eman's reporter, Altalef said that in his opinion, as long as a majority of the members of the council do not appear at the council meetings, it will be impossible to conduct them, and all of the legal opinions that after a first meeting the second one must take place no matter how many members are present, are erroneous.

He explained that his interpretation of the governing law is that a council meeting held with any sort of attendance is legal only after a chairman and deputies are duly elected, and that as long as they haven't been elected, the meetings can take place only if the majority of the council members are present.

Tel Aviv Rabbonim

Before the meeting of the Tel Aviv Religious Council, Tel Aviv's rabbonim convened a well attended emergency meeting, at which they issued the halachic ruling that it is forbidden to hold the first meeting of the religious council at which the Reform and Conservative delegates will participate, and that its cancellation should be announced immediately.

This meeting, which was also attended by the members of the religious council was held in the offices of Tel Aviv's religious council. After a lively discussion, the following decisions were unanimously accepted.

1] The rabbonim of Tel Aviv firmly protest the inclusion of Reform and Conservative delegates in the religious council of Tel Aviv.

2] As is known, the sole purpose of these movements is to undermine and destroy our Torah hakedosha and its statutes and mitzvos which we have preserved from generation to generation, and for which we are willing to be moser nefesh.

3] In line with Torah law, the rabbonim of Tel Aviv-Yaffo explicitly enjoin the head of the religious council, Reb Shmuel Altalef, not to hold the first meeting of the religious council in which the Reform will participate. Instead, he must forthwith announce that the meeting planned for Monday, the 8th of Shevat 5749 (25/1/98) to which the Reform were also invited, is canceled, and in that manner prevent the great breach in the Torah hakedosha. The religious council and its heads must fulfill the mitzvah of kiddush sheim Shomayim borabbim in this manner.

4] The rabbonim of Tel Aviv-Yaffo hereby enjoin the religious members of the Knesset to do their utmost to amend the Religious Council Law immediately, and in that manner to fulfill the sacred mission entrusted to them as representatives of religious Jewry in Eretz Hakodesh.

Agudas Yisroel's representative in Tel Aviv's religious council, deputy chairman of the council, Rabbi Yechezkel Shtepenholtz said: "It is unconditionally clear that we won't sit together with the Reform in the religious council. The Court must realize that it is impossible to force Torah observant Jews to violate Torah law. It is clear too, that without the chareidi and religious representatives, the religious council will cease to exist."

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