Israeli chief rabbi says he didn’t know about ‘blacklist’ of Diaspora rabbis
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Israeli chief rabbi says he didn’t know about ‘blacklist’ of Diaspora rabbis

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, right, and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau attending a New Year’s ceremony at the national headquarters of the Israel Police in Jerusalem, Sept. 7, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said in a letter that he did not know of the existence of a “blacklist” of Diaspora rabbis and that it should not have been released to the public.

“The Chief Rabbi was shocked to discover this list. This was done without the rabbi’s knowledge or his agreement. How can a list like this be publicized without the rabbi being made aware of the list itself or of its publication?” read the letter written by an aide on behalf of Lau and issued Sunday.

“The results of this are very serious,” the letter continued. “First of all, an employee in the Chief Rabbinate cannot decide on his own to publicize who the Rabbinate approves or not. Secondly, the damage this does to certain rabbis cannot be exaggerated – including to the Chief Rabbinate.”

The list of 160 rabbis from 24 countries, including the United States and Canada, and including Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis, was released to JTA and other news outlets over the weekend by Itim, a nonprofit that guides Israelis through the country’s religious bureaucracy, after it received the list as part of a freedom-of-information request made in 2015 in a Jerusalem municipal court demanding a list of approved foreign rabbis and received this list as part of that case.

According to a JTA tally of the 66 U.S. rabbis on the list, at least one-fifth are Orthodox, including  several prominent Orthodox rabbis and one alumnus of the Baltimore haredi Orthodox seminary Ner Yisroel. The vast majority of U.S. rabbis on the list are Reform or Conservative.

In Sunday’s letter, Lau ordered Chief Rabbinate Director-General Moshe Dagan to call in  Rabbi Itamar Tubul, who kept and released the list, for questioning and a reprimand.