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J'lem chief rabbi criteria to change after Barkat petition
By JONAH MANDEL
09/12/2010
Barkat filed a petition against religious services minister demanding clear and egalitarian criteria in the committee’s work.
 
The committee for selecting Jerusalem’s chief rabbis will have to change the criteria it was using, following a High Court of Justice hearing on Wednesday during which the justices accepted the claims of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat that the current selection process is faulty.

In late July, Barkat filed a petition against Religious Services Minister Ya’acov Margi (Shas) and the committee selecting the capital’s rabbis, demanding clear and egalitarian criteria in the committee’s work and asking the court to issue an intermediary order halting any further progress in the selection process until the contested issues are resolved.

Barkat, represented by attorney Aviad Hacohen, agreed to withdraw his petition following the ministry’s agreement to reconsider the issues at hand, including the equal representation of all residents in the election process, and determining proper procedures for the committee’s work.

Barkat called Wednesday’s resolution “an important decision, that will prevent further opportunism, and enable the election of a Zionist rabbi to the city, alongside a haredi one.”

The Religious Affairs Ministry had no comment on Wednesday.

The city has had no official rabbi since 2002. In 2005, Barkat filed a petition against then-prime minister Ariel Sharon in his capacity as religious affairs minister, to force him to act toward the election of a city rabbi.

In December of that year, at the behest of the Jerusalem Municipality, the search was expanded to include two city rabbis.

The general elections of 2006 brought the process to a halt, and according to Tuesday’s petition, regulations published in 2007 included lacunas meant to make the selection process more difficult.

According to the petition, the selection of the committee’s members violated the rules of proper conduct, and aimed to promote the selection of haredi rabbis.

Furthermore, Barkat said that the selection of Jerusalem synagogues whose congregants will ultimately participate in the rabbis’ choice, was done “against criteria... in a selective, political manner.”

Barkat is not concealing the fact that he wants a national-religious rabbi elected for a city that is over two-thirds non-haredi, an aim that was part of his election platform in 2008.
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