I’m an American rabbi. Israel no longer recognizes my religious authority.

Source: The Washington Post

Fundamentalists in Israel are shunning open-minded Jews from the rest of the world.

 July 13

Gil Steinlauf is the senior rabbinic adviser at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C. He was the senior rabbi there from 2008 to 2017.

When I discovered this past week that I was one of the 160 rabbis officially not to be trusted by the Israeli Orthodox rabbinate, I had an uncanny flashback to an earlier sensation.

I was 19, and I had allowed myself to be “kidnapped” at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. It was a well-known thing to do at the time: If you were an American kid exploring your Judaism and you wanted to get an invite to an ultra-Orthodox home for a Sabbath meal, you simply hung around the Western Wall on a Saturday afternoon until an Orthodox man well-known for his outreach approached and asked if you wanted to join a family for lunch. Like so many young American Jews who grew up in largely secular homes, I was in Israel to delve into my Jewish identity. I had never personally known Jews who wore black hats and headscarves. When I saw them walking the Jerusalem streets, speaking Yiddish to one another with large broods of kids in tow, I was reminded of stories my Yiddish-speaking grandparents told me of their vanished childhood worlds in Europe. That Sabbath, I wanted to be kidnapped. I wanted access to that sweet, haimishworld of my ancestors.

The man led me through the magical winding streets of the Old City until we finally came to a tiny apartment. There was a large, beautifully set Sabbath table. We arrived late: There were already at least seven other Americans there, and they had finished eating. The apartment belonged to a young couple. The wife, a stout woman modestly dressed in Orthodox garb, led me to my place at the table and put a bowl of cholent in front of me. Her husband, a thin man with a long black beard, white shirt and black pants with ritual fringes hanging in front, was already speaking animatedly to the group.

“And so everything in this world depends on the mitzvos we do,” he was saying, using the Yiddish pronunciation of “mitzvot,” the Hebrew word for “religious commandments.” “There are no exceptions. You do the mitzvos, and your life will be well and the world will have peace, and we will bring on — God willing — the messiah. But if the Jewish people aren’t doing their mitzvos, this brings on calamity upon our people.”

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