Israel's Chief Rabbi Expresses Regret for Placing Nefesh B'Nefesh Founder on Rabbinical 'Blacklist'

Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, the director of the aliyah-promotion organization, appeared on the Chief Rabbinate's list of 160 rabbis around the world whose rabbinical authority was questioned

Chief Rabbi David Lau
Moshe Goldstein

The office of Israeli Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau has expressed regret to Rabbi Yehosha Fass, the director of the aliyah promotion group Nefesh B'Nefesh, for Fass' inclusion on a list published by the rabbinate of 160 rabbis that has been construed as a blacklist of clergy whose rabbinical authority has been called into question.

In a letter sent Monday, Rabbi Lau’s senior aide, Rabbi Rafael Frank, expressed regret to Fass for his inclusion in the list. Lau did not know of the list prior to its publication, but the list also does not imply rejection of the rabbis themselves, Frank wrote.

>> The Israeli Chief Rabbinate's blacklist: A guide for the perplexed <<

“[The list’s] intention was not to invalidate rabbis, God forbid, but rather [to invalidate] letters that raised doubts and questions,” wrote Frank. The letter added that Lau “very much appreciates” Fass’ work. Fass is the co-founder and executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh, which handles all immigration to Israel from North America.

Hours after it was released, Lau expressed shock and outrage that such a list had been published without his knowledge or authorization. “This was done without the consent or approval of the rabbi,” Rabbi Frank wrote on Sunday in a letter addressed to the director-general of the Chief Rabbinate’s office. “How can it be that such a list is published without informing the rabbi that it exists and that it is to be made public?”

The list was prepared by an official in the Chief Rabbinate’s office responsible for determining whether individuals born abroad, registering to marry in the country, qualify as Jewish according to religious law.

“Firstly, it is inconceivable that an official in the Chief Rabbinate’s office will decide on his own initiative which rabbis are approved and which aren’t,” Sunday's letter stated. “Secondly, it goes with saying that this has terrible implications and causes grave damage to certain rabbis, and especially to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel."