Jan 16, 2014
The Rabbinical Council of America is pleased to announce an agreement with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel regarding the recognition of "Jewish status letters" written by RCA members. This agreement attests to the unique relationship between the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the RCA, the largest body of Orthodox rabbis in North America, and mandates the automatic acceptance of letters bearing the endorsement of the RCA. The RCA is proud that that this agreement recognizes the vitality of the North American rabbinate and its privilege, capacity, and responsibility to serve its communities.
Recent actions by the Chief Rabbinate's office regarding letters submitted by RCA members raised many concerns both in the United States and Israel. The ensuing public discussion raised important issues. While the RCA chose not to openly engage in this debate, it did actively seek solutions to those problems and to the long term issues relating to the partnership between the rabbis of Israel and the Diaspora.
Rabbi Leonard Matanky, RCA president hailed this agreement as an historic moment in Israel-Diaspora relations. He said, "Since the earliest days of the RCA we have worked together with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. We are proud that we can expand that partnership to better serve our constituents and resolve issues that might appear before the Chief Rabbinate. Our Executive Vice President, Rabbi Mark Dratch, and our Israel representative, Rabbi Reuven Tradburks, are to be commended for this extraordinary accomplishment."
From the beginning of these discussions, the RCA has maintained that it is best positioned to endorse the credentials of its member rabbis. While status letters for the purpose of marriage in Israel will still be prepared by individual rabbis, the RCA, upon request of the rabbi, will issue a supporting document directly to the Chief Rabbis' office. The RCA endorsement will assure that the letter will be accepted immediately and without question in Israel. Situations in which conversion or divorce are involved will be reviewed by the Beth Din of America. The Beth Din of America will continue to independently certify individuals as Jewish following a review of their application. Rabbis who are not members of the RCA may continue to encourage their congregants to apply directly to the Beth Din of America for such certifications.