Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A complaint made against a prominent state-employed rabbi for participating in an advertising campaign for the Yad L’achim anti-assimilation and anti-missionary organization has been upheld by the Ministry for Religious Services.
Yad L’achim published an advertisement last week saying that the renowned Rabbi Yehiel Abuhatzeira, the municipal chief rabbi of Ramle and a nephew of the revered Sephardi mystic known as the Baba Sali, would mention the names of anyone hoping to get married and pray that their wishes are realised.
The opportunity to make charitable donation to Yad L’Achim was also made available in the promotion.
The advertising campaign was designed specifically for the minor Tu B’Av Jewish holiday, which fell on August 11 this year and which is thought to be an auspicious day for those wishing to get married.
According to the laws pertaining to the state civil service, which would include Rabbi Abuhatzeira, state employees may not raise money for any organization or purpose other than for the state itself.
The Hiddush religious-freedom lobbying group wrote to Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, pointing out that such activity is illegal and asking him to deal with the matter.
Ben-Dahan requested earlier this week that the legal adviser to the ministry look into the matter. The adviser spoke with Abuhatzeira and instructed him to remove his name from all advertisements for raising money for any group or nongovernmental organization.
Yad L’achim declined to comment.
Director of Hiddush Reform Rabbi Uri Regev praised Ben-Dahan for acting swiftly on the matter, but said that such action must be taken routinely in response to such incidents.
He said that the issue was a basic principle of the laws pertaining to civil servants and that these regulations prevent public officials from taking an active part in political campaigns and activities, or fund-raising, since they are potentially conflicts of interest.
Regev noted that Hiddush has several complaints still pending with the Religious Services Ministry and the Attorney-General’s Office regarding illegal political action during the last municipal elections in December 2013, and prior to that from the Knesset elections of January 2013.
Such activity included spiritual promises for voting for an approved candidate.
“Inaction of law enforcement agencies, including the Attorney-General’s Office, perpetuates the perception that there is no sanction for rabbis breaching the law in this manner,” said Regev.
“Rabbis who serve as civil servants, including municipal chief rabbis, often seem to feel that they are exempt from such regulations, or are above them. There is a need to remind all state-employed rabbis that they are not beyond the law.” A previous version of the article may have given the impression that the complaint upheld by the Religious Services MInistry was against Yad L'achim. This is not the case, the complaint was only against the Rabbi Abuhatzeira for participating in the campaign. We apologize if a different impression was given.