The New Chief Rabbi: One Week, Two Controversies

Last week the newly minted Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Lau was embroiled in a controversy for using a racial slur when moralizing to a bunch of yeshiva students about cutting class to watch basketball games (he referred to the basketball players as "kushim" a slur that does not have the historical baggage of the n-word, and has only been a slur for a few decades, but, with all due respect to Yaacov Lozowick, is clearly and blatantly a slur of which there is no way he was unaware; maybe I'll have another post on that word). When confronted, he said he was joking, but did not apologize.

Now it is being reported that Rabbi Lau was caught cheating (this hasn't even been reported in English yet) on a written semikha exam 20 years ago. It should be noted that there are a lot of unanswered questions about this report, but it is backed up by R. Dov Lior, a rabbi of significant stature who has very little to gain and an awful lot to lose by lying about this.

Here in Israel, we don't even need steroids scandals.


Michael Sedley said...

The fact that the story was passed on to the media the night before the election makes it sounds like it was part of an effort to undermine his candidacy - the media (correctly) waited with the story until after the election - they had no way to verify it before the election, and have still not been able to verify most of the details 9which themselves are very vague).

If you listen to the entire newscast, it sounds like HaRav Lior distanced himself from the charges against Rav Lau, saying he never saw the name of the person caught cheating.

I find it difficult to believe that Rav Lau had any need to cheat - I regularly attend shiurim from him, and I don't think that I have ever met a Rabbi with the breadth and depth of knowledge that Rav Lau has.

Larry Lennhoff said...

Any comment on the allegations that Rabbi Lau agreed to run all questions on conversion past Rabbi Sherman in exchange for Charedi support?

Larry Lennhoff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Sedley said...

Over Shabbat I heard that Rabbi Sherman was against Rabbi Lau's candidacy for Chief Rabbi, however after the election Rabbi Sherman called Rabbi Lau to discuss conversion procedures.
Rabbi Lau said that he would continue to consult gedolim on all Halachic matters, including conversion, but would not speak to Rav Sherman as he had disqualified himself due to his controversy with rav Drukman.