Rabbi Ronen Lubitz as potential Chief Rabbi of Haifa

According to Maariv, Ronen Lubitz, the Rabbi of Kibbutz Nir Etzion potentially could be the new Chief Rabbi of Haifa, to replace Rabbi Shaar Yashuv Cohen. Lubitz was part of the wave of the New Religious Zionists, that includes Rabbis Cherlow, Bigman, Gilad, Benny Lau, who wrote programmatic essays a decade ago in Deot, Amudim and Akdamot about the future of Religious Zionism and who formed Tzohar, as a more progressive rabbinical organization.

Lubitz, who is less well known in America than the others, has already stated to Maariv that he seeks for greater tolerance of gays in synagogue and that he accepts the compromise of accepting that entertainment remains open on Shabbat.

A decade ago he wrote a programmatic article on what is “modern religious orthodoxy” called in Hebrew AD”M (Orthodoxy ha-Dati haModerni. For my American readers I must point out that he is referring to an Israeli phenomena and not an American phenomena. With the rise of the aforementioned New Religious Zionists in the early 1990’s due to the breakdown of the older state-building and collective vision of the older religious Zionists, these younger rabbis turned to individualism and started calling themselves “modern.” (Note: Religious Zionism and Modern Orthodoxy are not co-extensive and have different origins and trajectories. Too big a topic for here). This group of Religious Zionists have no connection or sympathy with Haredim since they attend separate schools and form identity through army service. Rav Cherlow even advocates not learning Haredi seforim. The article seeks to distance AD”M from the Religious Nationalism of Merkaz Harav such as the followers of Rav Aviner.

Man Searches for Meaning (Again) in Deot 7 April 2000

Lubitz offers chapters toward a Orthodox Dati ha-Moderni AD”M
We need to seeks our way. We used to have a clear path but not anymore. AD”M is between the national religious camp and the religious liberals, the former-associated with Rav Aviner-are connected to Religious Zionism but lack modernity and the latter embrace modernity but are sociologically separate from Religious Zionism.

How do we relate to modernity? Confrontation, combination, synthesis, or even intergrafted?
Now we have the new issues raised by Postmodernity where ideas are contingent. In the National Religious group many run away back to certainty and Haredi life. If modernity does not work the default is to reject it and seek certainty.

Ronen Lubitz defined the struggles of the New Religious Zionists as consisting of five elements.
Five characteristic of modern Orthodoxy (he mean Israeli Datiim Hadashim or AD”M, don’t confuse with America)

(1) One needs to choose life- nothing in the fullness of the secular world should be foreign to Judaism.
We need to identify with Western culture and still keep mizvot in their fullness. Correct action is required but we allow many opinions so we are more orthoprax than orthodox. (I am not sure if he means these terms in the American usage.-read the Hebrew) We embrace doubt pluralism, contingency, there is no one opinion or theology. Sometimes a moment of holiness in the secular and sometimes a moment of secular in the holiness- “there is nothing as whole as a broken awareness”

(2) Doubt is serious; misgivings about observing mizvot, skepticism about belief, and questioning of Torah are all to be taken seriously.

(3) Observant Jews can lead a normal life, and not conform to an ideal life. It is OK to relax with normal entertainment or to enter any profession. Legitimacy for modernity to permeate your life the way Israeli nationalism used to permeate lives. Torah Study does not override tasting and being part of the world.

(4) There is a pluralism of truth, without a reconciliation of halakhah, mahshavah, and secular studies. AD”M does not see a contradiction of Torah and the pluralism of scattered and fragmented truth. In this we differ from the National Religious who treat western culture as fact and try to keep out its values. Every month they have a new worry, reaction, and restriction. We openly accept human rights, autonomy, freedom, equality. We recognize that Western culture contributed to the advancement of humanity, therefore we seek to ground these values in Torah. In time, we will succeed in integrating post-modernism as well.

(5) We need to live in a religious language but we need a new religious language since the old language does not serve us anymore.

Interesting other piece about Lubitz protesting for human rights in China from 2008

In a small town in northern Israel Rabbi Ronen Lubitz is very happy to welcome his congregation’s leavened bread. It’s a token of solidarity to remember the days when the Jews had to cross the desert without it after they were freed from Egypt.But this year Rabbi Lubitz is adding something more to this ancient tradition. He’s asking everyone in his congregation to sign a petition against human rights abuses in China. His hope… to have his community know about the persecution of Falun Gong in mainland China.
[Ronen Lubitz, Rabbi of Nir Ezion]:
“I decided this year to use this opportunity to let people know about what’s going on in China. The persecution and torturing of the Falun Gong, and the prohibition of very basic civil rights to the people of China. I think it’s very much connected to the basic ideas of Pesach (Passover). Because during Pesach we celebrate our freedom. Our freedom as people, as a nation. Our freedom as individuals.”

“I go in the way of Rabbi Kook. He talked a lot about our duty to love all human beings and he spoke about our Passover, our Pesach as a sign of freedom to all humanity…I would like to wish the people in China and in other places in the world that this spring of our nation will be a sign for spring for them as well.”

6 responses to “Rabbi Ronen Lubitz as potential Chief Rabbi of Haifa

  1. I don’t believe Rav Cherlow says not to learn Haredi books. I’ve heard him say before that he doesn’t believe that Haredim write anything very interesting, but as far as I know he’s never said not to learn them.

    • Eric,
      see Reshut Harabim where he has a teshuvah. He specifically mentions that even those that have what to teach, such as Rav Wolbe should be avoided. But consistency is not a virtue of his responsa or responses.

  2. Pingback: הרב רונן לוביץ מועמד להיות הרב הראשי לחיפה « MINIM

  3. I think his position would be stronger if he adopted Elchanan Shilo’s idea that the religious community can consist of a wide range of observances and not only a wide range of haskafot. The rabbi should be observant , and the kehila has the traditional ways of Judaism as the base line and center, but any Orthodox kehila, certainly in Israel should be accepting of all those who want to participate.

    I am also not clear if he thinks of his midway position as adopting the platform of the settlers and their goals. If he does, I think it makes all his talk of pluralism problematic, at least to me.

    If someone could actually create a new religious language that might be helpful. But if R. Lubitz is really serious about being open to the secular, I would think a new univocal religious language should not be high on the agenda. A basic feature of secular thought and life is that the language keep on morphing, new ideas, new ways with one language replacing the other at a rapid pace. My suspicion is that he is more into tasting than being in the modern world.

  4. EJ-
    It seems you like Shilo’s approach. Any thoughts on it?

    A basic feature of secular thought and life is that the language keep on morphing, new ideas, new ways with one language replacing the other at a rapid pace.

    I think that you have hit on an important point- rabbis may need new language every generation or two in order to reach people, but humanities,thought, and culture are ever changing. This seems like a basic sociology of religion division. When a 13th century Talmudic commentary is a Maimonidean it is not the same as a translator-commentator Maimonidean. The former creates a single new language by reading a few books, while the latter is involved in an ever changing discourse. Mid-twentieth century american rabbis picked up freud, existentialism, and Kant as a fixed small shelf of books, but that is not the same as the ever changing world of thought.

  5. Would you be interested in seeing this project become a reality: Have banners and signs that explain th raison d’etre of Israel -“LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” – hung over Israeli roads and thoroughfares, in all essential languages. This would give the youngsters of Israel a sense of pride and purpose in their country, while being valuable PR for the tourists and the entire world.

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