Rabbi Melchior Says He Was Snubbed by Israel’s Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi

Chief Rabbi Bent Melchior of Denmark said yesterday that he was snubbed by Israel’s Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Isser Yehuda Unterman during his visit to Israel last week. Rabbi Melchior said he had specifically requested a meeting with the 86 year-old Unterman to discuss recent allegations in some Orthodox circles in Israel that conversions performed by the Danish Chief Rabbi were not strictly in accordance with halacha, religious law. Rabbi Melchior said he was shunted from one subordinate to another though Unterman knew of his presence in Israel.

On the other hand, Rabbi Melchior said, he was received cordially by the Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Itzhak Nissim, by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren of Tel Aviv, and by Beersheba’s Chief Rabbi M. Kuzlowski. All three “showed understanding” for his position, Rabbi Melchior said. During his visit he was received by President Zalman Shazar at his Jerusalem home.

The Jewish weekly Judisk Orientirung meanwhile sharply criticized Israel’s Chief Rabbinate for questioning the validity of Rabbi Melchior’s conversions. The rabbinate in Jerusalem has no right to interfere in the Danish rabbinate’s decisions, the paper said, adding that the Israeli rabbis never even attempted to check the Danish conversions to determine whether or not they complied fully with halacha. The paper welcomed any Israeli rabbinical delegation that might wish to visit Denmark in that connection.

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