Political deal for Chief Rabbinate Council upheld with one exception

Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weiss, chief municipal rabbi of Kfar Haroeh was elected to council despite the lack of political support.

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September 6, 2018 07:40
3 minute read.
A CHIEF RABBINATE employee gets ready for vote.

Chief Rabbinate elections 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Nine out of ten candidates who were part of a political deal between Bayit Yehudi, Shas and United Torah Judaism were elected to the Council of the Chief Rabbinate on Wednesday.

The only rabbi not part of the political deal to be elected was Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weiss, originally of Manchester in the UK, who campaigned without political party support and received the fourth highest tally of votes.

Weiss was elected in place of Rabbi Yosef Glicksberg, 86, the longest standing member of the council.

The Council of the Chief Rabbinate is the executive branch of the Chief Rabbinate, acting like the government cabinet and empowered to make decisions regarding Jewish life in Israel over major issues pertaining to marriage and divorce, kashrut, and other key concerns.

It is comprised of 17 members in total, 10 of whom are elected every five years.

Of the ten rabbis elected to the council on Wednesday, eight were incumbents and this will be the third term for all of them.

The only rabbi elected in the previous elections in 2013 who was not included in the current political deal was Rabbi Avraham Yosef, brother of Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, who was convicted on breach of trust charges last year and banned from public office.

To fill his place, Yitzhak Yosef lobbied hard for his pupil and close associate Rabbi Yitzhak Levy to be elected.

The Jerusalem Post learned that Yosef summoned several rabbis who were considering standing for election to private meetings, where he asked them not to run for election to the council in deference to Levy.

Yosef also met privately with members of the electoral committee to ask them to vote for Levy.

Both actions likely constitute ethics violations against the integrity of elections regulations.

Levy is just 38 years old and has served as municipal chief rabbi of the small town of Nesher, close to Haifa, for less than two years.

Yosef actively intervened in the elections for chief rabbi of Nesher on behalf of Levy, and was reprimanded for doing so by the Ombudsman of the Israeli Judiciary, Judge Eliezer Rivlin, who ruled that Yosef’s intervention had been illegitimate and had violated ethics regulations.

Despite Levy’s young age and lack of experience, he received the second highest number of votes out of all candidates, indicative of the strong support he gained from Yosef and Shas.

Bayit Yehudi, Shas and United Torah Judaism came to an agreement some time before the election itself to re-elect all serving members of the council, and the members of the committee were lobbied to vote for those members.

Officials close to Shas leader Aryeh Deri, as well as Yosef, were involved in these efforts.

Speaking to the Post after the election results were announced, Weiss said that his success proved that “you shouldn’t be frightened and you shouldn’t give up just because there are political deals.”

He said that the fact that nine out of the ten rabbis elected had been part of the agreement between the religious parties proved that “the political deal worked.”

Said Weiss “I wasn’t part of the deal, but thank God and through God’s help I was elected. The whole way of electing the chief rabbinate council has to be changed.”

Weiss ran in 2013 but narrowly missed out.

He said that as a member of the council, he wanted to work towards making the Chief Rabbinate “more palatable to the public,” and to modernize the institution.

Attorney Mordechai Eisenberg of the Movement for Fairness in Government, a good-governance NGO which filed legal complaints to the Attorney General’s Office regarding the alleged election violations, decried the success of the political deal over the elections.

“The fact that Rabbi [Yitzhak] Yosef succeed in getting his pupil onto the council, through injury to the democratic process established in law, and through injury to deserving rabbis who dared not submit their candidacy and interfere with Yosef’s conspiracy, is a mark of shame for Rabbi Yosef and religious politicos in Israel,” said Eisenberg.

“This is a mortal blow to the standing of the Chief Rabbinate.”


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