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Tel Aviv to Chabad: Excuse Me, Are You Jewish? Now Get Out.

Do you really need a license to put on tefillin?

Liel Leibovitz
October 23, 2017

Being a Chabad emissary in Tel Aviv is hardly any easier than it is anywhere else. Sure, you don’t have to go around asking people if they’re Jewish, but you do have to contend with city hall asking if you’ve got a permit for those phylacteries: This past Friday, a Chabad rabbi doing his work at a booth in the city’s tony Ramat Aviv neighborhood was approached by a municipal inspector and warned that he lacked the proper license necessary to ask passersby if they’d like to put on a pair of tefillin.

This is the second case in a few weeks involving Chabad being singled out by unfriendly Israeli municipalities. In September, a Chabad rabbi in Herzliya was fined $209; the inspector who issued the fine wrote that the rabbi’s offense was “harassing people by asking them to put on tefillin.”

Following a national furor, Herzliya’s mayor, Moshe Fadlon, was forced to apologize for his employee’s judgment. He did so in a personal letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who passed away in 1994.

“I, Moshe the son of Tony Fadlon, Mayor of Herzliya,” read the letter, “inform the rabbi, King Messiah, that unfortunately there was a misunderstanding about the tefillin stand. I want to express my sorrow and announce to everyone that I cherish the activities of Chabad. I request from his holiness a blessing for success and for a sweet and sweet year.”

As of now, there’s no similar letter coming from Tel Aviv’s mayor, and no apology or comment has been issued.

Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.

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