Fake rabbis

Who is a rabbi? There are several types of rabbinical ordination within Judaism, but one of the most common themes is that a rabbi is trained in good faith by other rabbis, and has an extensive background in Torah, Talmud, halakhah (Jewish law), tefila (prayer), and Jewish theology.

Jewish Theological Seminary Rabbinical School and Cantorial School Class of 2004

Jewish Theological Seminary Rabbinical School/Cantorial School Class of 2004

When one goes to a synagogue, the rabbi can generally be trusted to be an actual rabbi. However there needs to be skepticism on this matter, as there is a phenomenon of fake rabbis.

For decades, there has been an evangelical Christian movement attempting to convert Jews by setting up various “Messianic” synagogues. Their leaders learn how to sing some Jewish prayers; they buy tallitot and tefillin, and may dress their churches up like synagogues. As such, one can enter a congregation which advertises itself as a synagogue, but the leader is actually Christian clergy..

There is a separate Hebrew identity movement. Some non-Jews decide that they no longer believe in the Trinity, and want to accept Jewish monotheism. They can of course do so on their own, join a Unitarian church; or go to a synagogue. But some within this group “self-convert” – they simply claim to be Jewish, and some even “self identify” as rabbis. A few have created websites and Facebook discussion groups which gain followers. And so we have a group of people claiming to be rabbis, who are neither Jewish nor rabbis.

A third category exists, which is more complicated, as this group of non-rabbis has gained some traction in parts of the Jewish community. There are some Jewish people claiming to be rabbis who merely purchased “modern rabbi certificates” from diploma mill. The Forward has a article on this phenomenon:
“Online-Ordained Rabbis Grab Pulpits” Josh Nathan-Kazis 12/3/12

Some people have allowed these supposed rabbis to officiate at weddings, Bar/Bat mitzvahs, and even conversions, not knowing that their rabbinic credentials are non-existent, and that their conversions and weddings are not accepted as real.

Readers should be aware of these diploma mills: they offers “modern rabbi” certificates:

* The New Seminary, in New York City. Founded in 1981 by Joseph H. Gelberman.

* “The Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute” http://jsli.net/

 

How can you tell if someone is a real rabbi?

If someone is an Orthodox Jewish rabbi then they would have learned with other Orthodox rabbis, and be qualified to be a member of an Orthodox rabbinical organization. Most of the Orthodox Jewish rabbinical groups are listed here:  Orthodox Jewish Rabbinical organizations

If someone is a Conservative/Masorti rabbi then they would be qualified to be part of the Rabbinical Assembly. or the Union for Traditional Judaism

If someone is a Reform/Liberal/Progressive rabbi then they would be qualified to be part of one of the Reform rabbinical groups, such as The Central Conference of American RabbisLiberal Judaism (Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues) or the Movement for Reform Judaism (until 2005: Reform Synagogues of Great Britain).

Individuals who pose as rabbis

* Lior Bar-El. Created a YouTube channel and became an Admin of a Facebook Judaism group. His followers posted his videos on other groups, leading many to assume that he is a rabbi. Bar-El makes attacks against real rabbis as “eiruv rabbis”, false rabbis:

https://www.youtube.com/user/vortex677 }

Here is an example of one of Lior Bar El’s screeds from 3/10/16:
> “I shall be discussing why it is not permitted and why u
> shouldn’t listen to the filth of the erev ravs {false rabbis}
> who pull new laws of abominations out their butts daily. I shall
> also have in the end a lecture and warning I give to all the
> sheeple out their that follow abominations …

* Yosef Mizrachi – A right wing Haredi Orthodox Kiruv (outreach) preacher, he makes his living lecturing at right wing Orthodox synagogues. He never received semichah (rabbinical ordination); no Orthodox yeshiva admits ordaining him as a rabbi. His own website refuses to mention why he calls himself a ‘rabbi’.

* Asher Meza is a self-styled rabbi on YouTube, but no Orthodox yeshiva admits ordaining him as a rabbi. He claims to be the leader of “Aish HaTorah College Of Jewish Studies”, but no such college exists. As seen on this video, Asher Meza accepts Christian fundamentalist Messianics as adherents of Judaism. This position is rejected by all of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism.

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10153193302043228&set=vb.319582778227 }

* Judah Moshe works with Asher Meza on supposed “conversions to Judaism”, and is the leader of a website called “West African Jews of the Diaspora.” This is a non-Jewish, Black Hebrew Israelite organization, made of gentiles who self-identified as Jews in the early 20th century.

Felipe Gutierrez, claims to be an “Israelite Rabbi”

* Philip S. Berg is the founder of The Kabbalah Center. His name is actually Feivel Gruberger, and his training was to be an insurance agent. He married the niece of Kabbalist Rabbi Brandwein, and distributed his books. Feivel claims to have a Doctorate, but will not reveal the name of the universty that granted it. Feivel claims to have semichah (rabbinic ordination) from Yeshivah Kol Yehudah in Jerusalem, but that too has never been confirmed by the school. Feivel’s new-age Kabbalah Center has been acepted by celebrities such as Madonna. It has grown to have branches in New York City, Los Angeles, Toronto, London, and other cities. None of the denominations of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative or Reform) consider his school authentic.

The Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute

This is regarded as a mere diploma mill, selling fake “rabbi ordinations” to unknowing secular Jews for $8000. In the New Jersey “Jewish Standard”, Joanne Palmer writes:

Blane calls himself a Universalist rabbi. he mandates a belief in intermarriage and a willingness to perform such ceremonies as a prerequisite for enrollment in JSLI.
The institute, which he founded about three years ago, meets online. The only time students get together is at their ordination. Classes are by videoconference; they last for two hours once a week. There are two semesters a year, and a rabbinical student must take both semesters for s’michah, or ordination

The class “starts with a little davening,” Blane said. “Then we all bring something to the table, something that relates to halachah or a festival or a holiday. I’ve developed a curriculum that touches on what I believe is all the important topics that a liberal rabbi needs to understand and come to terms with in order to meet the needs of their communities.” Each student is required to give a d’var Torah every week, and over the course of the year they must lead a lunch-and-learn session, using some of the knowledge they gained over the course of their extra-rabbinic lives. At that point, the students are ready to be ordained, with their s’michah certifying that they “have demonstrated familiarity with our codes and texts and are empowered to serve as rabbi and teacher,” the institute’s website, jsli.net, says…  It was just about that time that the then-Cantor Blane was ordained a rabbi by the Rabbinical Seminary International.

So this “rabbinical school” has the same educational level and time commitment as a 10th grader going to a Modern Orthodox 10th grade Hebrew school.

A new way to become a rabbi? The Jewish Standard 8/24/12

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