Controversy rages after Chief Rabbi of Israeli-Ethiopian community pushed aside

Rabbi Yosef Hadane was denied an extension to his service as chief rabbi of the community after he reached the age of retirement, 67.

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June 20, 2016 20:56
2 minute read.
ETHIOPIAN-ISRAELI KESSIM celebrate the Sigd holiday in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv

ETHIOPIAN-ISRAELI KESSIM celebrate the Sigd holiday in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

 
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The chief rabbi of the Ethiopian- Israeli community in Israel, Rabbi Yosef Hadane, has been pushed out of his position by the Religious Services Ministry, allegedly for his opposition to discriminatory practices against Ethiopians when registering for marriage.

According to a report by Army Radio, Hadane was denied an extension to his service as chief rabbi of the community after he reached the retirement age of 67.

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Such extensions are routinely given to municipal chief rabbis, including those of an advanced age, but Hadane’s request was denied.

In a formal response to the report, the Religious Services Ministry said that Hadane’s post was a position within the civil service, and was different from municipal chief rabbis.

Hadane did not submit a formal request to have his tenure extended, but spoke directly to Oded Flus, director of the Religious Services Ministry.

The Jerusalem Post has learned that Flus denied the request and therefore Hadane did not make a formal request.

According to well-placed sources, Flus and the ministry were indeed upset by Hadane’s position on the issue of Ethiopian marriage registration.



Members of the Ethiopian community have complained on several occasions in the last three years, particularly regarding the Petah Tikva rabbinate, that they have been unable to register for marriage, because several local rabbinates have refused to accept their conversions through the state conversion authority.

Although Ethiopian immigrants from the Beta Israel community are recognized as fully Jewish and do not need to undergo conversion, immigrants belonging to the Falash Mura community, which converted in the 19th century from Judaism to Christianity, are required to undergo a streamlined conversion process by the state after immigrating.

The policy implemented by the Petah Tikva rabbinate not to register people from this community was made by Rabbi Binyamin Atias, brother of senior Shas figure and former minister Ariel Atias.

Hadane reportedly gave his strong backing to members of the Ethiopian community who were refused marriage registration, and also offered to register them for marriage through his offices.

In May 2015, Chief Rabbi David La sent a letter to then director of the Religious Services Ministry Elhanan Glatt warmly praising Hadane for his work, and requesting that the rabbi’s tenure be extended.

Glatt reportedly agreed, but this decision was seemingly overturned by Flus. Last week, Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef also sent a letter requesting that Hadane’s tenure be extended.

Given Yosef’s close relationship to the Shas party, it is unclear how ministry, run by Shas minister and MK David Azoulay failed to extend Hadane’s tenure.

Flus did not respond to a request for comment by the Post.

The Tzohar rabbinical association, which has advocated for marriage registration reform, strongly criticized Hadane’s dismissal.

“We are deeply disturbed by the desire to depose Rabbi Yosef Hadane from his position serving the Ethiopian community,” Tzohar said. “Seemingly his only transgression was his brave decision to stand in defense of Ethiopian Jews who had been denied the right to marry according to Halacha by the Petah Tikva Rabbinate. It is inconceivable that a rabbi should be deposed by political and bureaucratic figures.”

Sources in the ministry told the Post that Hadane’s tenure might nevertheless be extended.

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