Dec 14, 2010
The Rabbinical Council of America places great value on the judicious balancing of halachic and ethical principles of policy and action. The brilliance of the halachic tradition lies in its ability to affirm the Torah and rabbinic teachings of past generations, in a way which elevates and ennobles contemporary life, while bringing honor and respect to the Torah. This requires a special sensitivity to societal realities, widely-held ethical principles, and historical injustices. This is true no matter the particular circumstances that might militate in favor of policies or actions intended to protect a narrow community concern or interest.
For this reason, the Rabbinical Council of America finds the recent statement by certain rabbinic leaders in Tsfat, Israel, regarding rental and sale of residences to non-Jews, to be objectionable. The halachic issues at hand are indeed complex, and we are surely sympathetic to the impulse to protect a Jewish community in the face of intermarriage, communal conflict, or unsafe neighborhoods. We are also mindful of the need to respect the halachic and policy rulings of rabbis in other countries and specific locales, given their general familiarity with the facts on the ground.
In spite of all of these considerations, we find it necessary to express our views from afar insofar as the statement in question affects not just Jewish communities in Israel, but communities in North America as well. In addition many rabbis across Israel whom we hold in high regard have spoken out in opposition to the statement.
It is our view that in spite of the concerns of the authors of the statement, it is wrong and unacceptable to advocate blanket exclusionary policies directed against minorities of other faiths or ethnic groups. Of all people, Jews should know that such practices are beyond the pale, having ourselves suffered from them in the past. This is especially so, when as in the statement issued by the rabbis in question, the halachic sources and arguments are a matter of debate, and even disagreement. And even were that not the case, it is not at all clear that the principles in question would apply in the State of Israel in the 21st Century.
We thus respectfully call upon the authors of the statement in question to reconsider their position, in the interest of communal harmony, societal peace, and the public sanctification of God's name, which are as always the hallmarks of the Torah way of life.