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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Religious Zionists invite Rabbi Lau... to America

Rabbi David Lau was elected the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel last Wednesday. Like his Sephardi counterpart, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, Rabbi Lau was tagged as the 'Haredi' candidate for the chief rabbinate, even though he is the son of a former chief rabbi who was known for his inclusiveness both while in the position and since then. The campaign was bitterly fought, with Rabbi David Stav, who is known to be more 'open,' opposing Rabbi Lau. The result left the religious Jewish community in Israel as deeply divided as ever.

Will the divisiveness come to an end over the course of the chief rabbis' ten-year term? Will Rabbi Lau be given a chance to unite despite his black hat and long black coat? In a hopeful sign, Rabbi Lau, who until now was the chief rabbi of Modiin, as mixed a community as exists in Israel, has been invited to address a prominent religious Zionist group. There's just one catch: Those religious Zionists are in America.
But the RZA chairman said it was time for religious Zionists in Israel and America to work together with Lau and newly elected Sephardi chief rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.
“It would have been nice to have Rabbi Stav as chief rabbi, but we need to embrace Rabbi Lau and move on,” Oliner said.
“Rabbi Lau has not been welcomed in the Zionist community and it’s a mistake. We will be welcoming to Rabbi Yosef and Rabbi Lau, who will continue a great tradition.”
The Rabbinical Council of America, the largest organization of Orthodox rabbis in North America, issued a statement congratulating Lau and Yosef on their election, calling them both “accomplished Torah scholars and men whose ways are those of pleasantness and peace.”
RCA’s president, Rabbi Leonard Matanky, said his organization “looked forward to working with the new chief rabbis and welcomed opportunities to learn from them and to share with them the the RCA’s experiences in engaging Jews, from all backgrounds, in the eternal conversations of Torah.”
The Orthodox Union wished both chief rabbis well and expressed the organization’s willingness to cooperate closely with them as they strive to educate the Jewish people in the values of Torah.
“We are confident that they will bring their considerable talents to bear on resolving the pressing problems which confront our people,” the OU said.
If they did a little checking, Israeli religious Zionists would find that there is much in Rabbi Lau's background to indicate that they will be able to work with him. It's a pity that it's only the Americans who open-minded enough to be willing to take a look. We Israelis have a lot to learn from our American brethren when it comes to working together. Maybe, eventually, the Americans can have some influence on their Israeli counterparts. Ten years is an awfully long time.

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