Interview with the rabbi Yitzchok Elefant, the chief rabbi of Dimona, whose speech at the Federation's General Assembly in Israel showed that the purpose of Jewish Judaism is authentic Judaism, not control.
Over the last decade, reform and conservative movements have led an increasingly intense campaign for the recognition of the Israeli government, and with it, joint control over the key functions of the Chief Rabbinate. A much used forum for this purpose was the annual General Assembly of the United Federation of Jews in North America, which in recent years took place in Israel.
While the largest percentage of time, passion and topics discussed at the meeting is taken by supporters for changing the 70-year status quo, one of the few voices defending his behavior was Rabbi Yitzchok Elefant, who represented Rabbinat at the General Assembly of the organization (GA) from 2013 last, last October.
For more than three decades as the chief rabbi of Dimona, a city in southern Israel, probably the most well-known of nuclear power plants, Rabbi Elefant brings unique skills during panel discussions in Congress: he has long been a rabbinate for a largely non-religious city, born both in English, as well as American.
Outnumber and to a large extent perceived as an "enemy" by the vast majority of participants who support a "pluralistic" approach, said Rabbi Elefant Hamodia that he worked hard to formulate the message of the Rabbinate as a matter of concern and responsibility for the Jewish people, and not as a struggle for control.
"I said that it would be easiest for us to retreat to our ghettos and to face the challenges facing the Orthodox world." The only logical reason why we should not do this is because we care for all our Jews, "said Rabbi Elefant. unpopular position to stand really Yiddishkeit and fight to preserve Klal Yisrael whole, just because we care about the Jewish future. It's a message that they have to hear more, and it seems to me that it has reached a resonant point with a large number of people. "
Rabbi Elefant said another central point he emphasized in GA was often put forward by orthodox supporters, namely that reform leaders and conservatives should take care of the crisis in their own camps before they focus on the Israeli scene.
"Seventy percent of unorthodox American Jews are out of faith. Once I mentioned on previous GA that if anyone else had a 70-percent failure rate in their work, he would be fired," he said. "Does not it make much sense to focus on this instead of fighting wars for pluralism in Erec Israel?"
While several orthodox participants in the assembly stated that their positions had not been given a just airtime, Rabbi Elefant said he felt that the Federation "played fair" with him and other Orthodox speakers on various panels.
"I've made two conditions: one that I say last, because if they attack me, I have to hear their attacks before I defend my position, and two that I get double time because it was four against one, and both [conditions] they were honored – he said. "I would say that they had absolute respect, the problem is not whether they are playing fair, what they have with me, the problem is that they want to take steps that would destroy Jewish life, they imagine an alternative to Israel kashrus, alternative Shabbos – everything except the real one Yiddishkeit. "
While the majority of Israeli society is still largely secular, advocates of maintaining the rabbinate control over marriage, divorce and conversion argue that the current system largely maintains the halachic integrity of the Jews living in the country and retains the basic Jewish framework for the events of the life cycle. Rabbi Elefant said that the system is especially valuable for kiruv movement, because there is no need to question Jewish origin, despite previous irreligious origin.
Polls show almost 50 percent of Israeli support for the idea of recognizing non-orthodox groups. However, as Rabbi Elefant has said, much of this support is based on a lack of understanding of the reality of the reformist and conservative movement.
"Although there is definitely a lay camp who would like to see halachah completely removed from the Israeli life, most people do not really know what the reform looks like, "he said." Many people who would tell you that they support the recognition of the reformed "rabbis" will quickly change their minds if you tell them that the same "rabbis" do not they have a problem with a mixed marriage.
On the example of Dimona, his family home, Rabbi Elefant said that even the majority of non-religious people "want to get married das Moshe v & # 39; Yisrael, even if they do not know what it means, and they want "shul whom they did not go to" to be Orthodox.
Demographic changes that predict an ever-increasing percentage of Orthodox Jews in the coming decade, said Rabbi Elefant, is another factor that can change the 50% support rate in the not-too-distant future.
Regardless of whether it is based on a real or fictitious demand for "alternative" religious options in Erec Israel, pressure from non-Orthodox groups in the Israeli political world is becoming more intense, and many government leaders seem to be more willing to consider implementing some of the their goals.
Some in the orthodox camp suggested that allowing civil marriage could be a way to depoliticize hallucinations and fulfill certain secular demands in a way that does not force the rabbi himself to compromise on any Torah norms. Rabbi Elefant said he raised this opportunity in meetings with other rabbinical leaders, but added that "such a key decision will of course have to be made by Gedolei Yisrael. "
"If [non-Orthodox advocates’] The pressure becomes impossible, it would be an obvious solution, but it is very sad because in effect we are two nations. "
"Peaceful revolution of the Torah"
In the hope of preserving and strengthening the Jewish personality, Rabbi Elefant began his own project, which he believes has the potential to be a "peaceful revolution of the Torah".
"Most of the shuffles in Israel do not have Rabbanima, and beyond chareidi districts, in most cases you have gabba & # 39; them leading all religious life, "he said." History has shown how many true social rabbis have happened in America, and I think that the same thing can happen in Erec Israel. "
Even if not fully perceptive, Rabbi Elefant said that many – if not most – Israelis meet with Rabbani in connection with the events of the life cycle, but most of them end up as "lost opportunities".
"The boy comes to the bar mitzvah, there is nobody to follow him and try to create a relationship with him and his family," he said.
Until now, Rabbi Elefant installed 13 Rabbanim in nine different cities, which are paid for by private funds, and not under the auspices of the Rabbinate. Selected are Ashkenazi and Sephardi people, as well as people from both chareidi and religious Zionist environments. The emphasis is on the selection of people who will be able to refer to the local community.
Ironically, the plan arose from the legal challenge brought by the same pluralist forces that Rabbi Elefant tries to fight. Since the judgment of the Supreme Court, which ordered the Rabinat to appoint sacred members of unorthodox movements, the existing ordinary rabbis simply refrained from installing anyone in many positions under their jurisdiction. The result is a shortage of skilled Rabbanim to reach or serve many secular and even traditional communities.
Rabbi Elefant said that his own experiences in Dimon, which have a relatively small orthodox population, but a large contingent of traditional families, have proven that this approach can significantly undermine contacts with individuals and can change communities over time.
"When I arrived in Dimona, there were 40 shuffles and one Gemara shiur; now there are 70 shifts and tens shiurim, "he said." I'm learning 12 different chavrusos weekly. Most of them are not Shomer Shabbosbut they like to learn. "
Born and raised in Boro Park, Rabbi Elefant is the grandson of Harava Eliezer Zev Kirzner, from 'l'who led Bnei Yehudah shul for many years. He is alone talmid Harvia Tuvia Goldstein, from 'l'who gave it semichah. Shortly after the wedding with Mrs. Sorah nee Gorlin, the couple moved to Erec Israel, where he applied for Rav for the Chief Rabbinate. He was elected a rabbi of Dimona, where he served so far.
Despite the difficult challenges, Rabbi Elefant said that AH is a unique opportunity for Orthodox leaders to express their views of non-orthodox lawyers in a framework that does not violate Torah values. He said that although there is value to communicate with reform and conservative leaders, dialogue with secular Israeli politicians is much more important.
"In a respectful and pleasant way – but strong – we must make it clear that it is not about control or an attempt to monopolize Jewish life," said Rabbi Elefant. "It's about lively, authentic Judaism and inauthentic Judaism about the documented history of failure."