Israeli-Ethiopian leaders press conference.
(photo credit: ALONI MOR)
The Religious Service Ministry says it will now extend the tenure of the Chief Rabbi of the Ethiopian Community Yosef Hadane by six months, after having previously decided to push him into retirement.
The decision comes following heavy criticism, including from Chief rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, and amid allegations that the decision was made due to Hadane’s opposition to discriminatory practices against Ethiopians when registering for marriage.
Army Radio reported on Monday that Hadane had been denied an extension to his service as chief rabbi of the community after he reached the retirement age of 67, despite the fact that such extensions are routinely given to municipal chief rabbis, including those of an advanced age.
Hadane did not submit a formal request to have his tenure extended, but spoke directly to Oded Flus, director of the Religious Services Ministry, who reportedly refused to extend the rabbi’s period of service.
On Tuesday however, the ministry made public a letter sent by Flus to Hadane on Tuesday in which he wrote that the ministry is now examining the rabbi’s request for an extension to his tenure.
“In accordance with the instructions of [Religious Services] Minister [David Azoulay], it is our intention to positively examine the request and to take the required steps to extend [your] service by six months until 28.2.17,” wrote Flus.
The letter seems to imply however that the six-month extension is only being granted in order to prepare for Hadane’s departure after February 2017.
“It should be emphasized that extending [your] service is required for preparing to provide a solution for the needs of the department [which Hadane heads] and it is our intention to formulate a mechanism and a clear schedule for providing this solution and this will require your cooperation,” stated Flus in the letter.
Members of the Ethiopian public, specifically those from the Falash Mura community, have complained on several occasions in the last three years, particularly regarding the Petah Tikva rabbinate, that they have been unable to register for marriage, because several local rabbinates have refused to accept their conversions through the state conversion authority.
Hadane has actually been criticized in the past for failing to sufficiently support such people, but he received strong backing after news broke that he was being retired.
In May 2015, Chief Rabbi David Lau sent a letter to then director of the Religious Services Ministry Elhanan Glatt, warmly praising Hadane for his work, and requesting that the rabbi’s tenure be extended.
He issued a similar letter on Monday.
Sources close to Lau said they were satisfied that Flus had agreed to the extension, but said that they hoped it would be further extended for as long as possible after February.
“Chief Rabbi Lau will stand alongside Rabbi Hadane once again, if he is faced in six months with another attempt to oust him,” said the source.