Leaders of a demonstration Wednesday morning outside the officers of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem accused the Rabbinate of violating the Torah command to "love the convert," over its refusal to recognize conversions by a prominent North American rabbi.
Rabbi Seth Farber, Director of the Itim organization which advocates for religious reforms within the Chief Rabbinate, said demonstrators were "fighting for one of the most essential Jewish values: the love of the convert."
Rabbi Farber said that by rejecting conversions by leading American Orthodox rabbis like Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, the Rabbinate was unjustly alienating a huge portion of Diaspora Jewry and immigrants from the United States.
"People in this country who make aliyah, they want to feel part of this country, they want to feel fully a part of the Jewish people, and the institution of the rabbinate – which are representatives of the government of Israel – are giving them the proverbial slap in the face," he told Arutz Sheva
"It's unacceptable that the rabbinate continues to reject converts of rabbis like Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, one of the most prominent rabbis in North America – an Orthodox rabbi whose credentials cannot be questioned, and yet here in the holiest city he's not recognized," Rabbi Farber added. "This cannot go on."
Among the dozens of protesters were several prominent Israeli public figures, including Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and Likud MK Yehuda Glick, more widely known for his advocacy for the rights of Jews to worship on the Temple Mount.
Glick told Arutz Sheva that while he is "not a man of demonstrations," he felt the need to speak out and support efforts to make the rabbinate more inclusive.
"We want a rabbinate that opens its arms and hugs the people of Israel, and not a rabbinate that is choosing who to respect and who not to respect."