Saturday, July 16, 2016

Difficult Week For New York Orthodox Rabbi As Politics of U.S. and Israel Cause Him Problems

It has been a difficult week for respected Modern Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein.  Lookstein is the Rabbi Emeritus of Manhattan's Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, the synagogue attended by Donald Trump's daughter and son-in-law. Lookstein is also the rabbi who sponsored Ivanka Trump's conversion to Judaism.  So this week he was tapped to offer an invocation at the Republican National Convention. However a petition (full text) signed by over 800 Orthodox Jews took Lookstein to task, saying in part:
We, the undersigned, are outraged that Rabbi Haskel Lookstein – rabbi emeritus of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and the Ramaz School – has decided to lend his blessing to Donald Trump and speak at the Republican National Convention.
Donald Trump openly spouts racist, misogynistic rhetoric; he advocates torture, the expulsion of millions of families, some long settled in America, and insinuates that some citizens of this great country are somehow less than others.
So Lookstein decided not to speak at the Convention after all, saying: " The whole matter turned from rabbinic to political, something which was never intended."  The Forward reports on these developments.

Meanwhile, as reported by the Times of Israel, Israel's Supreme Rabbinical Court, the court which hears appeals in personal status matters, ruled on Wednesday that it will not recognize religious conversions performed by Rabbi Lookstein in the United States. It required an American woman who had converted to Judaism under Lookstein's auspices to convert again in Israel in order to get married there.  The ruling, of course, calls into question the Israeli rabbinate's willingness to recognize Ivanka Trump's conversion as well.  Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau says he recognizes Lookstein's conversions, but the Chief Rabbinate is separate from the Supreme Rabbinical Court. Israeli officials such as Jewish Agency head Natan Sharanksy also back Lookstein.