Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan (Bayit Yehudi) has said that his ministry is
considering whether to fire Rishon Lezion Rabbi Yehuda David Wolpe.
a step would be unprecedented since there is no disciplinary process in place
for municipal chief rabbis, although The Jerusalem Post understands that the
ministry is in the final stages of drafting a bill to rectify this
Wolpe has drawn the attention of the ministry for continually
refusing to act in accordance with the guidelines of the Chief Rabbinate with
regard to registering people for marriage in Rishon Lezion.
problematic is his ongoing referral of individuals to private organizations to
clarify their Jewish status.
Jews seeking to marry in Israel are required
to provide documentation proving they are Jewish. In some cases, however, the
proper documentation, such as a marriage certificate of their parents, is not
available or is problematic.
Of the approximately 42,000 marriages every
year in Israel, more than 10 percent require clarification of the Jewish status
of at least one of the spouses. Immigrants from the former Soviet Union in
particular frequently encounter difficulties proving their Jewish status because
of the lack of documentation stemming from the Communist regime’s repression of
The correct procedure is for the marriage registrar, usually the
chief municipal rabbi of the jurisdiction, to turn to the regional rabbinical
court to clarify the Jewish status of a person who lacks the appropriate
That rabbinical court can ask a private organization with
expertise with this issue to investigate further.
Wolpe, however, has
frequently referred people directly to private organizations without consulting
the rabbinical court.
In response to a parliamentary question submitted
by Yesh Atid MK Ruth Calderon, Ben-Dahan informed her that “the ministry is
examining the continued employment of Rabbi Wolpe.”
He added that the
director- general of the ministry sent a request to the Council of the Chief
Rabbinate several weeks ago to appoint a replacement marriage registrar for
Rishon Lezion while the ministry conducts its investigation into Wolpe.
spokesman for the Chief Rabbinate said, however, that the request had not yet
As the Post reported earlier this year, the ITIM religious
services advice and lobbying group petitioned the High Court of Justice back in
February on behalf of a couple who had been referred to one such organization,
to force Wolpe to halt this practice.
That case was settled in favor of
the couple without a High Court ruling, and Wolpe has continued to refer people
to the private organization, called Am Levadad.
Rabbi Seth Farber, the
director of ITIM, who is Orthodox, welcomed Ben-Dahan’s comments.
not acceptable that rabbis who serve in senior positions for public authorities
[act in] contempt of the state and it’s institutions,” said
“Rabbi Wolpe persistently demonstrates a hostile attitude to
immigrants from the former Soviet Union, in a city in which a fifth of the
inhabitants are immigrants, and works to further a personal agenda, while at the
same time humiliating and scorning people who turn to him.
It is fitting
that he should end his tenure in public service and that the Ministry for
Religious Services puts an end to [the phenomenon] of sending people to private
investigators in Rishon Lezion and other regional religious councils.”