Senior religious Zionist rabbi: I fear collapse of Jewish communities
OTS’s Rabbi Brander: “For the first time in my life I fear this collapse and the rift between our two Jewish communities”
By Zvika Klein | March 26, 2023
A senior Religious Zionist rabbi said, at a conference last week focused on the Law of Return, that the amendment should include a “package of actions,” like ones that would acknowledge the Western Wall Compromise. A different senior rabbi thought that this move would create a huge rift between Diaspora Jewry and Israel – based on his conversations with Modern Orthodox leaders across the board.
The conference, organized by the World Mizrachi movement in Jerusalem, hosted senior rabbis and heads of organizations to discuss the Law of Return, specifically, the amendment of the Grandchild Clause that allows anyone with one Jewish grandparent to immigrate freely.
The relevance of the issue harks back to the birth of the State of Israel. It is especially relevant nowadays, in light of the fact that in the last year, tens of thousands of non-halachic Jews immigrated to Israel under the Law of Return. Many members of the current government have been consistent in their views that changes are needed to this law due to the steady rise in the non-Jewish population in Israel.
The conference was led by Attorney Roi Abecasis, World Mizrachi’s representative in the World Zionist Organization and Rabbi Doron Perez, chairman of the movement. Among the speakers were, Dr. Netanel Fisher from the Kohelet think-tank, Yael Belenky from the ITIM Institute, Attorney Shlomit Ravitsky Tur-Paz from the Israel Democracy Institute, Israeli Immigration Policy Dr. Yona Cherki, Dr. Chana Pinchasi from the Hartman Institute, Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon from the Jerusalem College of Technology, Rabbi Kenneth Brander, president of Ohr Torah Stone, Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, head of the Orot Shaul Yeshiva and Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Rabbi of the city of Safed and member of the Chief Rabbinate Council.
“The conference strengthened our understanding of the need to make changes in the Law of Return, since through its auspices, many non-Jews make aliyah, something that can harm the unity of the people of Israel. At the same time, we strengthened the responsibility we have towards Diaspora Jewry and towards Jews in times of need. They [mainly Jews in the former Soviet Union] were forced to distance themselves from their Judaism. The conference served as a platform for a number of creative solutions that take into account the sensitivity of changing the law,” said World Mizrahi.
Cherlow told The Jerusalem Post that though he supports an amendment, it should be done while a package of actions is created simultaneously to support other requests of progressive Jews. “I support amending the Grandchild Clause, but we have to also create a large package that deals with all the questions that have been discussed for many years, such as finding a solution for the egalitarian prayer section and other issues.”“Unfortunately, Jewish Diaspora does not interest us,” he said of the Religious Zionist community in general, “that’s what makes it difficult to recruit emissaries [for long term work in Jewish communities in the Diaspora].”He emphasized that Diaspora Jews “should be on our radar, not only as potential olim but as a commitment to the Jewish people.”
Israel’s ‘Granchild Clause’
Brander told the Post that he was opposed to the amendment, especially a cancellation of the Grandchild Clause. “We will cause more friction between Jews in Israel and Jews abroad if we change the Grandchild Clause,” he said. Brander explained that as a Modern Orthodox rabbi, he has heard this from his emissaries, many of whom are rabbis and educators around the world.
“The amendment will cause significant damage. We are not in a good situation,” he said dramatically. “This is the first time I remember that Orthodox Jews outside of Israel ask if the State of Israel is also their home.”
Brander said that many Orthodox Jews in the Diaspora have been asking themselves “why not organize our son’s Bar Mitzvah in Disneyland, because Mickey Mouse will give us better conditions than we would have in Israel. We heard this from Orthodox Jews, from within our sector [of Religious Zionism].”
Brander added that when he spoke at Yeshiva University three weeks ago to a group of 80 rabbis, “I heard the same message, not from all of them, but from a large group of rabbis, that said they are worried about the relationship between the Jews in the Diaspora and between the Jews of Israel, the Land of Israel and the Torah of Israel. For the first time in my life I fear this collapse and the rift between our two Jewish communities.”