Several rabbis have hit back at critics of new regulations introduced by the Religious Services Ministry that require rabbis of small towns, settlements and local authorities to present reports on their activities and the fulfillment of their duties.
Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan announced last month that he was introducing the new rules in order to invigorate the rabbinical positions in small jurisdictions.
The regulations require rabbis to report their working hours once a month and provide details of their activities every three months.
But some rabbis were unhappy with the new requirements, including Rabbi Yosef Shloush, regional rabbi for the southern Sharon area and chairman of the Organization of Settlement Rabbis, who said that Ben-Dahan’s behavior was “disgraceful,” and insisted that “no rabbi who received authorization to serve in his job from the Chief Rabbinate is derelict in his duties.”
So on Sunday, Ben-Dahan’s office published several letters of support for the new regulations.
Rabbi Aharon Cohen, the municipal rabbi of the Yakir settlement, called the new reforms positive and necessary.
“Rabbis should set a good example as public servants and should be careful with public funds,” said Cohen.
He said that Shloush’s comments were a distortion of what the ministry was trying to do, and that instead of advancing [the credibility of] rabbinic positions, [his comments were] “sanctifying parasitic [behavior].”
“The fact that there are rabbis who don’t work and do not faithfully carry out their tasks cannot be hidden,” Cohen continued.
“Despite this, there are people who want to preserve this parasitic behavior and continue to simply view rabbinic positions as a source of money.”
The head of the Revava settlement Rabbi Uriel Ganzal was similarly supportive of Ben-Dahan, and said he “welcomed the decision to demand that rabbis meet the accepted moral standards of the employer-employee relationship and be a positive example to the workforce in general and members of their community.
“Preparatory planning for the activities of rabbis and reporting on their implementation, as is accepted practice in all other fields, will help ‘increase Torah and glorify it,” concluded Ganzal.
Rabbi Aharon Eizenthal, rabbi of the Hispin settlement, also weighed in, saying that trust in rabbis needed to be based on a permanent and ongoing connection between a rabbi and his congregation, and he praised the ministry for its efforts in insisting that this goal be advanced.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.