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High Court Justice Says Halacha Must Become More Flexible

Justice Shimon Agranat, President of Israel’s Supreme Court, told 150 Conservative rabbis meeting here that if Jewish religious law is to play a role in Israel’s legal system, “it must be flexible and meet the needs of the time.” Agranat spoke at the opening session of a three-day Kallah–learning and studies seminar–devoted to a symposium on Jewish law and the State of Israel.

The gathering, the first of its kind by Conservative rabbis in Israel, is attended by rabbis from the United States and from 10 Conservative congregations in Israel. It is marking the 25th anniversary of Israel’s independence. Agranat said that unless halacha became more flexible, it would continue 16 be “only of antiquarian and comparative interest.” He praised the work of teams at the Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University which are indexing and codifying Jewish law from the Torah to the modern responses. “To the extent that they succeed in revealing Jewish law, it will have more chance of playing a part in the life of the country,” he said.

Rabbi Stanley Bramnick, of Fairlawh, N.J., chairman of the Kallah, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that it was being held in Israel to strengthen the Conservative congregations in the country. He said the largest Conservative communities are in Haifa and Ashkelon and the bulk of their members are not American immigrants but Israelis who are “thinking of changes while retaining the traditional framework of halacha.” There are about 100 Conservative rabbis in Israel, 40 on sabbatical leave from the U.S. and the rest permanent residents.

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