Rabbis of small towns, settlements and local authorities will be required to report their activities for the community, according to a new rule implemented by Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan Thursday, much to the dismay of local rabbis.
Ben-Dahan said that the rabbis’ job was subject to various interpretations until now, but his new regulations will ensure that local rabbis serve as “spiritual leadership of groups in the community” in addition to more technical religious services.
The move follows recommendations by a Justice Ministry committee from 2008, which were not put into place due to protestations from local rabbis.
Some of the local rabbis, including chairman of the Settlement Rabbis Organization, Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Shalosh, who serves as regional rabbi for the southern Sharon area, were not happy about the reform.
Shalosh sent a letter to dozens of rabbis accusing Ben-Dahan of “disgraceful conduct [that] harms rabbis of Israel and the status of the rabbinate.”
“We do not think that any rabbi who received authorization to serve in his job from the Chief Rabbinate is derelict in his duties,” he wrote. “If there is a rabbi who is not doing his job properly, why doesn’t the Religious Services Ministry take care of him now?” Shalosh also accused the Bayit Yehudi party of overzealousness in changing the way religious services are provided.
“All the great rabbis and wise men of religious Zionism are against [reforming religious services] and these dangerous trends,” the rabbi said. “The problem is that the people who have authority, don’t listen to rabbis at all.”
Ben-Dahan did not officially respond to Shalosh, but a senior source in his office says the deputy minister “will continue to improve religious services and make them as accessible and efficient as possible.”
According to the new rules, local rabbis will be required to submit a report on their activities and work hours every three months.
The regulations do not apply to city rabbis, who already have to submit reports.
Among the activities rabbis will have to report are participation in most prayers at a local synagogue, organizing Torah classes and activities, visiting hospitals, participating in educational events, performing weddings and officiating at other life cycle events, all within 35 km. from their place of office.
The rabbis will have to be in the town in which they serve for at least three out of four Shabbats per month and most holidays.
“A rabbi must be physically available to his community, especially in evenings, Shabbats and holidays, and including on his cellular phone,” the new regulations read.