‘It’s about who is a Jew’

BINA’s Rabbi Michoel Gourarie was a signatory to the statement backing Moriah. Photo: Noel Kessel

NINE Sydney rabbis have joined forces to back Moriah College’s policy of only accepting students who are Jewish according to Orthodox halachah.

It follows the school clarifying its policy earlier this week after an alumnus was told he could not enrol his children because their maternal grandmother converted to Judaism through a Reform process.

In a release distributed last Friday, the rabbis – Chabad Double Bay’s Rabbi Yanky Berger, JLC’s Rabbi Davey Blackman, Dover Heights Shule’s Rabbi Motti Feldman, BINA’s Rabbi Michoel Gourarie, Cremorne Synagogue’s Rabbi Chaim Koncepolski, North Shore Synagogue’s Rabbi Paul Lewin, Nefesh’s Rabbi Aron Moss, Kehillat Kadimah’s Rabbi Dovy Rapoport and The Central Synagogue’s Rabbi Levi Wolff – said there was “nothing controversial about an Orthodox school upholding a policy which maintains the millennia old definition of a Jew”.

“The Torah is eternal and unchanging. It has an inbuilt system that deals with new situations and modern innovations, but the very definition of Jewish identity is not subject to change,” they said.
While acknowledging it was “a sensitive and delicate issue that elicits strong emotions”, the rabbis said the matter “is not about inclusion, it’s about who is a Jew”.

“Whether Orthodox, Reform or no affiliation, anyone born of a Jewish mother or converted according to halachah is Jewish,” they said.

“Moriah College’s constitution stipulates a policy of only accepting halachic Jews. This does not include someone who has converted outside of Orthodoxy, or the children of someone who converted outside of Orthodoxy.

“Any religious school should be allowed to define its own fundamental principles and who its clientele is.”

They conceded the policy “is understandably hurtful to those who do not comply with this definition” but said there was a path for anyone who was not born Jewish to embrace Judaism, being halachic conversion. “We will support anyone who sincerely wishes to pursue that path,” they said.

The rabbis stressed that tolerance goes both ways. “The Orthodox community attempts to uphold the Torah and its eternal values. No one is forcing anyone else to accept those values, but no one should be forced to forsake them,” they said.

“We don’t ensure Jewish continuity by changing what it means to be Jewish – that is not continuity. We ensure the Jewish future by teaching our kids what it means to be Jewish.

“We commend Moriah College for staying true to this message.”