Sydney rabbis back Moriah

Moriah College. Photo: Nadine Saacks

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

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 today, 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.

The full text of the release is below:

A Jew is a Jew

There has been heated discussion in the community about the long-standing policy of Moriah College to only admit halachically Jewish students.

This is a sensitive and delicate issue that elicits strong emotions. In the cloudiness of those emotions, some of the facts are being overlooked. It is not about inclusion, it’s about who is a Jew. So we thought to clarify the issues:

Do the Orthodox accept Reform Jews as Jews?

A Jew is a Jew. Whether Orthodox, Reform or no affiliation, anyone born of a Jewish mother or converted according to Halacha is Jewish. We embrace every Jew as our brother or sister, no matter what.

So what is the controversy about?

As an Orthodox school, 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. This policy is understandably hurtful to those who do not comply with this definition.

Isn’t Moriah being divisive by not accepting students who are not halachically Jewish?

There is nothing controversial about an Orthodox school upholding a policy which maintains the millennia old definition of a Jew. Any religious school should be allowed to define its own fundamental principles and who its clientele is.

Shouldn’t these things move with the times?  

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.

Shouldn’t we be tolerant of other views?

Yes, and 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.

What do you say to a family who believes they are Jewish but are being rejected?

It must be very painful, and we are sorry for any hurt. But you are not being rejected. There is a path for anyone who was not born Jewish to embrace Judaism – halachic conversion. We will support anyone who sincerely wishes to pursue that path.

Not everyone is Jewish. Anyone can become a Jew. But you have to follow the process that Judaism has defined. 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.

Signed by Rabbis:

  • Yanky Berger (Chabad Double Bay)
  • Davey Blackman (JLC)
  • Motti Feldman (Dover Heights Shul)
  • Michoel Gourarie (BINA)
  • Chaim Koncepolski (Cremorne)
  • Paul Lewin (North Shore Synagogue)
  • Aron Moss (Nefesh)
  • Dovy Rapoport (Kehillat Kadimah)
  • Levi Wolff (The Central Synagogue)