Rabbi’s arrest ‘shocking, provocative’

Rabbi Dov Hayoun. Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90/JNS

AUSTRALIAN Jewry’s reaction to the unprecedented detainment in Israel of a non-Orthodox rabbi for officiating a wedding has been swift and sharp, with Masorti community leaders calling it an “attack on the heart of Judaism”, and the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) describing it as “particularly disturbing”.

Rabbi Dov Hayoun – senior rabbi at Haifa’s Masorti synagogue Kehillat Moriah – was awoken by police at 5.30am on July 19 for questioning about conducting the wedding of two Jews in 2016 without registering it with the Office of the Chief Rabbinate, as is required by a 2015 amendment to the Law for Weddings and Divorce.

Rabbi Hayoun’s detainment is understood to be the first time that section of the law has been enforced.

Israel’s Attorney-General Avichai Mendelblit later instructed police not to question him again until “the matter is further clarified”.

Mercaz-Masorti Australasia (MMA) told The AJN congregants in Masorti communities “have been outraged to hear of the treatment of our colleague in Haifa … a totally unacceptable assault on democratic principles in our Jewish State and an outright attack on the unity of the global Jewish people”.

In a statement signed by its president Eric Lundberg, vice-president John Furstenberg and Rabbis Jeffrey Kamins, Rafael Kaiserblueth, Yonatan Sadoff and Jeffrey Cohen, MMA urged “Jews here in Australasia, regardless of background or religious affiliation, to call out this behaviour … and publicly denounce this unjust law.”

The ZFA also released a statement, calling Rabbi Hayoun’s detention “shocking and provocative”.

“It was all the more ironic when it was revealed he was released so that he could participate in a Tisha b’Av event celebrating pluralism at the residence of the President of Israel.

“That this transpired at a time of intense debate of the issue of maintaining and ensuring equal privileges and rights for all inhabitants of Israel, highlighted the systemic inequity which, to date, has been vested in law, but infrequently enforced.”

Furstenberg said, “It’s frightening when a rabbi is arrested in Israel simply for their religious beliefs.”

Kehilat Nitzan’s new head rabbi, Rabbi Sadoff, described Rabbi Hayoun as “a close friend who recited the Sheva Brachot at my wedding” and “one of the hardest working rabbis I’ve ever met”.
“What happened to him is alarming, but something I knew was on the horizon and is very dangerous,” Rabbi Sadoff said.

Emanuel Synagogue’s Rabbi Kaiserblueth, who once studied with Rabbi Hayoun at the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, told The AJN, “It’s a little early to tell, but I think the anger about this is at a different level.”

Full coverage in this week’s AJN

SHANE DESIATNIK