The Committee for the Appointment of Rabbinical Judges, headed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, ruled out on Thursday the brother-in-law of Chief Rabbi David Lau and the son of Supreme Rabbinical Court judge Rabbi Tzion Boaron as candidates to serve on regional rabbinical courts, because of their family connections.
The committee, composed of 11 ministers, MKs, rabbis and one female rabbinical court advocate, convened for the first time in four years to begin deliberations on the appointment of five rabbinical judges to the Supreme Rabbinical Court and 14 rabbinical judges to the 12 regional rabbinical courts.
The rabbinical courts have exclusive jurisdiction over marriage and divorce for Jewish couples in Israel, and as such the committee is viewed by women’s divorce rights groups as a crucial forum to influence the approach of the rabbinical courts to men, as well as women, who refuse to agree to a divorce.
Earlier this week it was reported that the state comptroller had asked Livni to examine a complaint it had received about the family connections of several of the candidates for both the supreme and regional rabbinical courts.
Among the candidates were Rabbi Ariel Schweitzer, the brother-in-law of Chief Rabbi David Lau, and Rabbi Yinon Boaron, the son of Supreme Rabbinical Court judge Rabbi Tzion Boaron.
During the meeting on Thursday, it was brought to the attention of the committee members that the regulations pertaining to the appointments process exclude candidates who are immediate family members of committee members.
Both Schweitzer and Boaron were therefore excluded, as well as another 12 candidates either for their family connections or because they lacked sufficient support on the committee to be realistic contenders for appointment.
Rabbi Tzion Boaron, who sits on the committee as one of the two representatives of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, left the meeting in protest although deliberations continued without him.
A vote on the remaining candidates was not taken due to the necessity for the committee members to reevaluate their votes in light of the 14 disqualified nominees.
Dr. Rachel Levmore, a committee member who serves as a rabbinical court advocate, told The Jerusalem Post that in the past, potential candidates had been dissuaded from applying because of the general impression that appointments were made in accordance with political and familial connections and not on a merit basis.
She also emphasized that the regulations on the appointments process stipulate that preference should be given to candidates who have performed IDF service or undertaken some form of public service, and that candidates with higher education qualifications were also desirable.
On the 11-member committee sit the Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni (Hatnua), who also serves as the panel chairwoman; Communications Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud); MKs Eli Yishai (Shas) and Shuli Mualem (Bayit Yehudi); Chief Rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau; Supreme Rabbinical Court judges Rabbis Tzion Boaron and Tzion Elgrabli; two Israel Bar Association representatives, attorneys Mordechai Eisenberg and Asher Axelrod; and Levmore, who is also the coordinator of the Agunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project of the International Young Israel Movement.