Chief rabbis step in to postpone exam processing reforms

The chief rabbinate in conjunction with the Ministry of Religious Services oversees some 10,000 exams every year for men seeking to gain ordination as a rabbi.

December 12, 2014 04:26
2 minute read.
David Lau

Chief rabbi David Lau. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Efforts by the Ministry of Religious Services to improve the Chief Rabbinate’s notoriously inefficient examination process for rabbinic ordination have been stalled by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The ministry has said that the processing is unacceptably cumbersome and slow, but Lau has objected to the increase in exam fees the proposed outsourcing of the exams would cause.

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The Chief Rabbinate, in conjunction with the Ministry of Religious Services, oversees some 10,000 exams every year for men seeking to gain ordination as a rabbi, rabbinic judge, and other positions requiring ordination.

Each rabbinical each candidate must take 12 exams, meaning that the bureaucratic and logistical demands of the examination process are considerable. In addition, there are other exams for higher rabbinic qualifications allowing a rabbi to apply for more senior positions, which also need to be conducted and processed.

One of the biggest problems is marking the exams. On average, it takes 12 months before a candidate is informed as to his mark, and in some cases it can take up to two years before he receives his grade.

Deputy Minister of Religious Services Eli Ben-Dahan of Bayit Yehudi initiated proceedings to reform the examination process, specifically by deciding to outsource the logistical requirements.

An external company would be responsible for registering candidates for the exams, collecting the registration fees, and doing the marking and other logistical arrangements, instead of the rabbinate.

According to the terms of a government tender that was drawn up to address the issue, the private company would need to mark exams and inform the candidates of the results within 70 days.

However, the new system suggested by Deputy Minister of Religious Services Eliyahu Ben-Dahan would leave the Chief Rabbinate in charge of writing the exams, and the rabbinate would also continue to determine which examiners to use.

The tender took over a year to draft and was written in cooperation with the rabbinate’s legal adviser. It was supposed to have been published this past Monday. However, according to information obtained by Post, Lau called for the publication of the tender to be delayed due to the increase in exam fees that outsourcing would entail.

According to the Chief Rabbinate, outsourcing would increase the exam fees by NIS 325 to NIS 800. However, the Ministry of Religious Services says the fees would increase by only NIS 100.

A spokesman for the rabbinate acknowledged the difficulties and problems with the exam-processing system, but said the increase in the numbers of people taking the exams had grown out of all proportion to the funding provided by the government for administrative expenses.

Ben-Dahan, however, said the outsourcing process would proceed.

“We will go ahead with the tender; there is no other way,” the deputy minister said.

“I am thinking first and foremost of the unfortunate yeshiva students who wait many months... in some cases as long as two years, for their exam results. My responsibility is to make sure that Israeli citizens get the service they deserve.... Criticism of the outsourcing process ignores the current reality of the poor state of the exam-processing system.

“We will continue with the revolution we have started in religious services, including with the rabbinate, the appointment of rabbis, with kashrut, religious councils, and the integration of technological tools in the provision of religious services.”

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