Deri increases religious establishment influence

“This decision supported by Shas will in effect pass the authority over appointing a district rabbi from representatives of the [local] residents to politicians.”

November 7, 2016 18:38
1 minute read.
Arye Deri

Arye Deri (Shas). (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

A proposal from Interior Minister and Shas chairman Arye Deri to shift the balance of rabbinical selection committees away from public representatives to favor the religious establishment was approved on Monday by the Knesset Interior Committee.

Until now, selection committees for the chief rabbis of 32 regional districts comprised the chairman of the regional council, another public representative of the district and a delegate chosen by the Religious Services Ministry.

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In the new regulations proposed by Deri, however, that two-to-one representation will change to a three-to-two weighting in favor of candidates chosen or controlled by the Chief Rabbinate and the Religious Services Ministry.

The new selection committees will now comprise the chairman of the regional council and its director-general; two chief municipal rabbis or chief regional rabbis from towns and regions other than the region in question to be selected by the Council of the Chief Rabbinate; and another public representative who is a resident of the regional council in question and is appointed by the Religious Services Ministry.

A proposal by Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria, supported by the Ne’emanei Torah Va’avoda religious-Zionist group, to insist that at least 30 percent of representatives on the committees be women was also adopted, although it seems unlikely that this measure will prevent the religious establishment from dominating the committees.

Azaria and NTA welcomed the adoption of the clause requiring fair representation for women, stating that women are frequent users of the religious services provided by local religious councils and the rabbis that work alongside them.

The religious-Zionist rabbinical association Tzohar was however highly critical of the new regulations, describing them as “an arrangement of jobs for insiders.”

“This decision supported by Shas will in effect pass the authority over appointing a district rabbi from representatives of the [local] residents to politicians,” Tzohar said. “The role of a rabbi is not a stitch-up job for politicos to deal out to their associates. A local rabbi must be chosen by public representatives, as is the case for municipal chief rabbis. It must be emphasized to these politicians the local rabbinates and the chief rabbinate are supposed to serve the public and give better access to religious services for local residents.”

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