Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Bayit Yehudi has decided to support Rabbi Shlomo Shapira, a rabbinical judge in Netanya, as its second candidate for appointment to the Supreme Rabbinical Court, in a blow to several women’s rights groups campaigning for an alternative nominee.
The Rabbinical Judges Appointments Committee is scheduled to convene on Wednesday, as the July 15 deadline set by the High Court of Justice to appoint new rabbinical judges to the Supreme Rabbinical Court rapidly approaches.
There is however no agreement yet between all nine committee members to appoint the preferred candidates of the three principal players in the process, United Torah Judaism, Shas and Bayit Yehudi.
Should appointments not be made by July 15, the High Court of Justice has said that it will revoke the tenure of the six temporary rabbinical judges currently serving on the Supreme Rabbinical Court, a move which would severely hamper its ability to operate since there is only one permanent judge currently serving.
That judge, Rabbi Eliezer Igra, was a Bayit Yehudi candidate and was appointed in May.
Traditionally, UTJ, Shas and Bayit Yehudi have split nominations to the regional and supreme rabbinical courts evenly, with each party free to nominate and have appointed an equal number of candidates.
In the recent round of appointments, including those made to the regional courts back in September, UTJ and Shas have however vetoed several Bayit Yehudi candidates.
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Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday the party was supporting Shapira, saying Rabbi Yair Ben-Menachem, a candidate strongly supported by several women’s rights groups, could not get the seven required votes in the appointments committee.
Shapira is a senior rabbinical judge in Netanya and also a relative of Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, dean of the prestigious Mercaz Harav yeshiva and a member of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate.
Several women’s rights groups as well as liberal national-religious groups have supported Ben-Menachem, who has been praised as a talented and dynamic rabbinic authority.
Dr. Rachel Levmore, a rabbinical courts advocate and member of the Rabbinical Judges Appointments Committee, has been an ardent proponent of Ben-Menachem and was critical of the decision to back Shapira.
Speaking to the Post, she insisted that fellow committee member Justice Minister and Bayit Yehudi MK Ayelet Shaked find a way to appoint Ben-Menachem.
“Without relating to Rabbi Shapira on a persona level, Bayit Yehudi and Shaked would do well not to capitulate to the Shas veto on the best religious Zionist candidate, which is Rabbi Yair Ben-Menachem,” said Levmore.
“She must not allow political considerations to determine the identity of the rabbinical judges who hold the personal status of every Jew in the state of Israel in their hands,” she continued.
Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef vehemently opposes the appointment of Ben-Menachem, and has in recent weeks torpedoed a deal that included the rabbi in the list of appointments. But Yosef also opposes the appointment of Shapira, and is insisting Bayit Yehudi appoint a Sephardi judge.
Ben-Dahan told the Post that “we oppose the fact that another party dictates to us who our candidates should be.”
Another member of the appointments committee, Labor MK Revital Swid, called for political considerations to be discarded from the appointments process.
“From July 15, there will be just one rabbinical judge to serve on the Supreme Rabbinical Court, meaning that divorce proceedings, child welfare issues and other urgent matters will not get dealt with,” said Swid. “This is unacceptable and the committee must not be thinking about politics but rather about the public good.”
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