With another election approaching, issues of religion and state have again raised their head, with politicians from the militantly secular Yisrael Beytenu party trading barbs with the Sephardi chief rabbi. The bone of contention relates to the conversion of immigrants from the Soviet Union and their children—many of whom are of only partial Jewish ancestry. Behind such controversies, writes David M. Weinberg, is the ḥaredi takeover of the institutions of the chief rabbinate in the early days of the peace process:
Ultra-Orthodox Control of the Israeli Rabbinate Stands in the Way of Resolving the Conversion Question
At America’s Best Universities, Biblical Religion Is a Curiosity, if Not a Menace
At the time of Columbia University’s founding in 1784, notes Meir Soloviechik, the leader of the local synagogue, Gershom Mendes Seixas, was made a member of its board of regents. A Jewish student even gave a commencement address, composed by Seixas, in Hebrew. In the 20th century, Columbia attracted numerous Jews with the relaxation of quotas, and was the first secular university to create a chair in Jewish history. Barnard College, Columbia’s all-women’s school, was itself founded by a Jewish woman, and today has a large number of Orthodox Jewish students.