Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Eliot L. Engel, the senior Democratic member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement after the Israeli Chief Rabbinate reversed course and agreed to accept the religious credentials of Rabbi Avi Weiss.
“I was heartened to learn of the Chief Rabbinate’s reconsideration of Rabbi Avi Weiss’ halachic credentials, which will again allow him to submit Jewish status letters on behalf of Jews wishing to marry in Israel. While in Israel to attend the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s funeral, I had the opportunity to express my concerns regarding Rabbi Weiss’ treatment face to face with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau.”
“While I am encouraged to see the decision concerning Rabbi Weiss resolved in a positive manner, I would note that the broader issue of how Diaspora Jewish communities and their religious leaders are recognized by Israeli state institutions remains largely unresolved. The Israeli government has taken recent positive steps to help foster a more inclusive environment for the multitude of Jewish religious practices and traditions in Israel – a trend which I hope continues.”
On January 10th, Ranking Member Engel wrote a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing concern over the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s decision to reject the validity of Jewish status letter written by Rabbi Weiss. The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, which Rabbi Weiss has led for nearly four decades, is in Congressman Engel’s congressional district. Rabbi Weiss is also a constituent of Congressman Engel.