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U.S. Rabbis Determined to Clash with Israeli Rabbinate on Divorces

Rabbi Theodore Friedman, president of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly of American said today his organisation was determined to force the issue of the refusal of the Israeli rabbinate to recognize Jewish religions divorces granted by American Conservative rabbis.

The Conservative rabbinical group called a press conference to explain why it had engaged Gideon Hausner, former Israeli Attorney General, to represent it in Israel on the issue. Rabbi Friedman said that Mr. Hausner had been engaged “to explore ways” in which the problem could be handled under Israel law. He added that, in engaging Mr. Hausner, the Rabbinical Assembly had not committed itself to legal action, but that “this is a possibility.”

The event which brought about the action was the application last September of a Jewish woman, who had been divorced by a Conservative rabbi in Boston, for a license to marry. The rabbinical registrar in Tel Aviv rejected the application on grounds that the divorce was invalid. The woman wrote to the Boston rabbi, who referred the mutter to the rabbinical group. Rabbi Friedman then wrote to Chief Rabbi Isar Untermann of Tel Aviv on the refusal. Rabbi Untermann replied that the divorce document had only one rabbinical signature, as against the three required in Israel.

Rabbi Friedman wrote again to Rabbi Untermann, pointing out that a single rabbinical signature was the Jewish legal procedure in all countries except Israel where he said, it was a custom and not Jewish law. He also pointed out that the Boston rabbi had acted in accordance with Jewish Law under the Conservative Beth Din. He added that there had been no reply to his second letter.

Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, executive vice-president, said that man in the case had received a Jewish divorce from an Orthodox rabbi in the United States and that his document bore only one signature but it had been accepted by the Israel rabbinate.

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