Why I Support the Rabbanut

Are we headed for a Karaites of the Wall moment? (Source: Wiki Commons, Wayne McLean; Western wall in Jerusalem at night)

Are we headed for a Karaites of the Wall moment?
(Source: Wiki Commons, Wayne McLean; Western wall in Jerusalem at night)

Maybe I have Stockholm syndrome. But even as a Karaite, I can’t help but respect the Rabbanut.

The Rabbanut is organized, has a clear vision, and serves a vital role in protecting the Jewish nature – at least as the Rabbanut defines “Jewish” – of the State of Israel.

But last week, The Economist ran a troubling article about how the Rabbanut appears to have taken aim at the Karaite community. (See The Economist, Who’s  A Jew: An old religious argument once again rears its angry head, May 18, 2013, Jerusalem.)

According to the article, “In recent months, rabbis working for Israel’s ministry of religion have deemed Karaite marriages invalid, fined their butchers for claiming to be kosher, and demanded that Karaites marrying Orthodox Jewish women should convert, sometimes having to undergo tavila, or baptism.”

Seriously? Is this middle ages?

Sadly, it’s worse than in the middle ages; in the middle ages there was a healthy degree of communication between Karaites and Rabbanites. (To be fair, though, it’s not like the Rabbanut is only focusing on Karaites today.)

This latest strife between the Rabbanut and the Karaites reminded me of the historical debates regarding whether the English should invite both Karaites and Rabbanites to settle in England in the 17th century.

One of the individuals helping to set England’s policy believed that the Karaites should not be invited. His opinion was summarized as follows: if the Karaites were invited, “the rabbinic Jews would not agree to come because the two groups were always in conflict with each other and could not live peacefully side by side.”*

Interestingly, this same individual believed it was the Rabbanites who oppressed the Karaites. Well, it took a full 65 years to break the “relative harmony,” as The Economist called it, between Rabbanites and Karaites in Israel. I wonder how long any harmony would have lasted in England.

Despite all this, I stand by my assertion that the Rabbanut plays an important role in Israel. My respect for the faith and devotion of Rabbanites is one reason I started this blog – so that Karaites (both new and historic) might develop a greater sense of pride in their own tradition and contributions to Jewish history and (more importantly) Jewish future.

The answer to the current religious disharmony, in my opinion, is not to disband the Rabbanut; rather, I hope that one day Israel fully recognizes the Karaut and other Jewish movements who want to set their own halacha.

*   *   *

*See Wilensky, Mordecai; Thomas Barlow’s and John Dury’s Attitude Towards the Readmission of the Jews To England, The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Ser., Vol. 50, No. 3. (Jan., 1960), pp. 256-268, n.61.


Filed under Karaite Press, Karaite Rabbanite Relations

10 Responses to Why I Support the Rabbanut

  1. maurice

    Given your known and apparent Stockholm Syndrome, you can begin to take steps to remedy it. I once commented to a local non-Orthodox rabbi that I wished the Orthodox would (fill in the blank. It doesn’t matter what follows) His answer was ‘when Moshiach comes’.
    We can’t wish for someone else to think or do anything. We can only control our own thoughts and actions. Once that is realized, your thoughts about Rabbanut will change for the…healthier. We will have a greater pride, knowledge, and sense of our tradition and future if we stop defending and justifying for them.

  2. Zvi

    Perhaps not disband the Rabbanut altogether, but at the very least it direly needs to be thoroughly revamped. In particular, it needs to be disinfected of any individual with so much as a streak of persecuting Qaraites and/or discriminating them.
    The Ministry of Religious Affairs — or whatever it is called these days — needs to allocate budgets in an egalitarian manner to all Jewish denominations in Ha’Ares.

    • Zvi

      Namely, the allocation needs to be done so regardless of the Rabbanut’s opinion about it.
      In the days following the elections and before the new government began its tenure I privately appealed to Naftali Bennett about this. He is the now in charge of that Ministry. Hopefully his having a heart for all Jews equally is much more than a charade of putting up an appearance for his elections campaign/

  3. Art Phillips

    Rabbanut..Shaun I like that word..I am sure that if our jewish messiah was here..he wouldnt dismantle any movement..but his just counsel would be that its about wether we hold true to the commandments and laws of G-d ..and not what jewish movement we belong to. …Shalom

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  5. Eddie

    Previous Chief rabbis like R Nissim and R Goren were supportive of Karaites. R Ariel, if he gets elected, is very much like R Goren. R Stav is even more open minded.

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