Twenty-three members of the Presidium and Council of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe made a historic visit to Eretz Yisrael this past week. They spent three days visiting the residences of Rebbes and Roshei Yeshivah where they presented an overview of the RCE’s activities for Jews throughout Europe.
The visit began on Monday, and the first stop was the residence of the Sanzer Rebbe in Kiryat Sanz, Netanya. The Rebbe listened took an interest in the situation of the rabbis and listened attentively to what they shared about the impressive development of the RCE since the last time they had visited.
RCE CEO Rabbi Arie Goldberg presented to the Rebbe various accomplishments illustrating the impressive growth of the RCE. For example, Rabbi Goldberg pointed out that the RCE has assisted with the establishment of 83 mikvaot throughout Europe, facilitating more purity for the Jewish people, especially in remote places that for many years did not have their own mikvah.
From there, the delegation of European rabbis continued to the residence of the Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh, Rabbi Baruch Dov Povarsky, who was moved to hear about the extent of the rabbis’ activities on behalf of the Jews of Europe. They presented to the Rosh Yeshivah several complicated halachic questions that had come up, and which were waiting for a long time to be resolved. Rabbi Povarsky patiently answered them on the spot. At the end of the long meeting, Rabbi Povarsky gave them encouragement, as well as a brachah that they should be successful in all their endeavors for the sake of the Jews of Europe.
In the afternoon, the visiting rabbis arrived at the home of the Rabbi of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Landau, whose father, the late Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Leib Landau zt’l, was one of the greatest supporters of the RCE. Rabbi Landau gave the rabbis encouragement and stressed the importance of setting a personal example for the community, as there are many Jews throughout Europe who are disconnected from Torah life and mitzvot.
At the residence of the Modzhitzer Rebbe, a member of the Moetztes Gedolei HaTorah, members of the RCE spoke about the serious dangers that exist in Europe, especially with regard to conversions. The visiting Rabbis asked the Rebbe to discuss this issue with the other members of the Moetzes, and to urge the representatives in the Knesset to amend the the Law of Return. This will have a significant effect on the situation of conversions in Europe.
In a lengthy meeting held immediately afterwards at the home of the Nadvorna Rebbe, the rabbis shared their firm stance on the issue of Jewish education in the institutions, which have seen ups and downs throughout Europe.
The members of the RCE Presidium and Council spent an enjoyable and uplifting hour with the mashpia, Rabbi Elimelech Biderman. They spoke about the subject of kiruv, noting that if a person has a way to bring distant Jews closer to Torah and mitzvot, it is an indescribable privilege – and the reward is commensurate. He also said that the situation of Ukraine’s refugees in Europe should be closely monitored, and their spiritual needs should be addressed, so that the refugees do not disconnect themselves from their heritage.
In the evening, the members of the delegation arrived at Givat Ze’ev where they visited the Karliner Rebbe, who welcomed them very warmly. The Rebbe expressed interest in the details of the situation of the rabbis of Europe and inquired about the ways they manage to lead their communities. The Rebbe noted the great importance of preventing assimilation and asked about the state of assimilation is in each country. He also asked what options there are for strengthening Jewish identity. At the end of the meeting, the Rebbe stood up from his seat and accompanied the members of the delegation until they left.
On Tuesday, Nov. 8, the second day of the visit, the members of the delegation arrived at the office of the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau. Together with the staff at the Chief Rabbinate, they discussed professional matters relating to the Rabbinate. The RCE Rabbis emphasized the importance of amending the Law of Conversion and the Law of Return so that they could uphold the principles of halachah vis-à-vis the government representatives throughout Europe. Rabbi Lau promised the rabbis to deepen the connection between the courts in the Israel and the courts throughout Europe, as well as to do everything in his power to amend the reform conversion so that only permanent courts can convert properly. Rabbi Lau promised to do as much as he could to strengthen the status of rabbis and dayanim throughout Europe.
After that, the members of the delegation went to visit the elder Rebbe on the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, the Biala Rebbe, shlita. He spent time listening attentively to descriptions of the array of actions and initiatives that the rabbis are doing throughout Europe in order to bring more and more Jews closer to their Creator. The rabbis described the impressive development of the RCE on many issues, especially regarding kashrut and education.
A fascinating halachic discussion was held in the office of the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Shlomo Amar. All the rabbis presented complicated questions and together with Rabbi Amar discussed each case on its own. Among the issues that were raised were Shabbos laws, amirah l’akum, and the laws of purity.
In the evening hours of Tuesday, the Rabbis visited Kever Rachel, where they offered emotional prayers for their continued success, for the Jews of Europe in general and particularly the Jews of Ukraine and Russia during these difficult times. They prayed for Rabbis throughout Ukraine who are challenged every day in these troubled times.
Later in the evening, a reception was held for the delegation by dozens of Rabbis from around the country. They included: Rabbi Asher Weiss, Rabbi of Darchei Hora’ah; Rabbi Zevadiah Cohen, Rabbi of Tel Aviv, who spoke on behalf of the dayanim of the batei din; Rabbi Yehuda Deri, Rabbi of the city of Beer Sheva; Rabbi Kalman Ber, the Rabbi of Netanya; Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, a member of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel; Rabbi Yitzchak Ralbag, a member of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel; Rabbi Mordechai Ralbag, Ra’avad of Jerusalem; Rabbi Menachem Hager, an Av Beit Din in Jerusalem; Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gluckowsky, Deputy Secretary of the Chabad Rabbinical Court; Rabbi Yaacov Ruza, member of the Chief Rabbinate; Rabbi Eliyahu Schlesinger, Rabbi of the Gilo neighborhood in Jerusalem; Rabbi Yitzchak Rabinowitz, a dayan in Jerusalem; Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Havlin, Rabbi of the Chabad Congregation in Ramat Shlomo; Rabbi Gideon ben Moshe, Rabbi of Yechaveh Daat; Rabbi Yaakov Mendelson, Rabbi of the Chabad community of Arad and other rabbis.
The main speaker of the event was Rabbi Asher Weiss, who offered warm encouragement to the European rabbis who stand at the frontier of the Jewish people in Europe
During the event, Rabbi Eliezer Schneebalg gave an emotional speech, presenting the message of the European rabbis to the dozens of rabbis who attended.
That evening, the delegation visited the Belzer Rebbe, where they presented a summary of their activities for Diaspora Jews. Rabbi Menachem Margolin and Rabbi Arie Goldberg explained to the Rebbe the various problems faced by Rabbis throughout Europe, namely issues relating to slaughter throughout Europe, and education in the institutions there, which requires extensive resources on the part of the Rabbis.
For about thirty minutes, the Belzer Rebbe discussed the situation of the Jews of Europe, asking detailed questions about their spiritual situation and about the communities there.
On Wednesday, the third day of the visit, the members of the delegation arrived at the Ohr Hachaim beit medrash, and met the Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Reuven Elbaz, member of the Council of Torah Sages, who received them with extraordinary respect and hosted them graciously. Rabbi Elbaz expressed interest in the situation of the Jews of Europe and asked that they continue doing everything to bring more Jews closer to their heritage. The Rosh Yeshiva noted that he also used the method of drawing people close with warmth and positivity to bring as many Jews as possible back to their heritage.
The rabbis then went to Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah; they spent time with him discussing several issues on their agenda. Rabbi Zilberstein noted his deep respect for the esteemed rabbis who are so focused on taking care of others and go live in remote cities to spread Judaism to many Jews who have no real connection to the Torah and mitzvot.
The members of the Presidium of the RCE are: Rabbi Yirmiyahu Menachem Cohen, former Av Beit Din of Paris; Rabbi Shlomo Duber Pinchas Lazar, Chief Rabbi of Russia and Chairman of the Board of Rabbis of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS); Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov Lichtenstein, former Av Beit Din of Bnei Yisrael community London, England; Rabbi Binyamin Jacobs, Chief Rabbi of the Districts in the Netherlands (IPOR) and Chairman of the Board of Rabbis in the Netherlands; Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Raskin, Dayan and Posek for the Lubavitch Community and Kedassia – London, England; Rabbi Yaakov David Schmahl Dayan of the Shomrei Hadas community of Antwerp, Belgium; Rabbi Michael Szmerla, Rabbi of Strasbourg, France and Rabbi Avraham David, Rabbi of the Sephardim in London, England
The members of the council are: Rabbi Baruch Oberlander, Rabbi of the Badatz Kehillot Hachareidim of Budapest, Hungary; Rabbi Doron Ahiel, Rabbi of Netzach Israel – London; Rabbi Jacob Biderman, Rabbi of Heichal Menachem synagogue, Vienna, Austria; Rabbi Shlomo Bistritzky, Rabbi of the city of Hamburg, Germany; Rabbi Yitzchak Guggenheim, Chief Rabbi of Paris, France; Rabbi Yosef David, Rabbi of the Od Yosef Chai community, London; Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Weissberger, Av Beit Din, Adas Yereim Community, Budapest, Hungary; Rabbi Avraham Hazan, Rabbi and Mo”tz in Milan; Rabbi Yosef Hazan, Rabbi and Mo”tz in Manchester, England; Rabbi Ron Hassid, Chief Rabbi of Gibraltar; Rabbi Shmuel Shlomo Tubaly, Dayan and Mo”tz and Rosh Kollel Beit Chananiah, Paris; Rabbi Yitzchak Niazov, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Vienna, Austria; Rabbi Hai Amram, Dayan, and Rabbi of Etz Chaim community, Marseilles and Bordeaux; Rabbi Avraham Baruch Pevzner, Rabbi of the Chabad community in France; Rabbi Pinchas Leibush Padwa, Chief Rabbi and Raavad of the Shomrei Hadas community in Antwerp, Belgium; Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Kahn, member of the Lubavitcher Beit Din, Paris, France; Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetzky, Rabbi of the city of Dnipro, Ukraine; Rabbi Yitzchak Reuven Rubin, Rabbi, and head of the Aish Kodesh Institutions of Manchester, England; and Rabbi Eliezer Liber Schneebalg, Rabbi and Av Beit Din of Machzikei Hadas, Edgeware.