The rabbis of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate.
(photo credit: CHIEF RABBINATE)
The Council of the Chief Rabbinate approved Rabbi Arye Stern’s credentials to serve as a municipal chief rabbi on Sunday, paving the way for him to stand in the upcoming election for Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Jerusalem, where he is the leading candidate for the position.
Stern’s qualification to serve as chief municipal rabbi had been called into question since his license for such a position was obtained via oral examination by the council in 2009, and not by written examination, and had also not been renewed.
Oral examination for rabbis was banned by the High Court of Justice in January this year because the practice is open to nepotism and misuse.
The issue threatened to torpedo Stern’s candidacy since renewal of his certification was required from the council.
Although it would have been highly unusual for the council not to have approved the renewal of his license, the highly politicized nature of elections for senior positions in the rabbinate created concern in Stern’s camp that the council would refuse to approve the rabbi’s qualifications.
Due to these concerns, the chairman of representatives for national-religious synagogues in Jerusalem, who nominated Stern as their candidate for the chief rabbi of Jerusalem position, sent a letter to the Chief Rabbinate and to its legal adviser on Sunday, warning that members of the council who have family connections with candidates or other possible conflicts of interest should not be allowed to participate in the vote on Stern’s credentials.
At Sunday’s meeting of the council, just six members turned up to vote out of a possible nine who were not legally excluded from doing so because of possible conflicts of interest, and his license was unanimously approved for renewal.
Stern’s campaign team welcomed the decision, saying it “paved the way for the election” of the rabbi “with the support of representatives from all sectors and communities in the city.”
Stern has large support on the 48-member electoral body and is likely to be elected when the vote takes place on October 21.
Among those vying for the position of Sephardi chief rabbi of Jerusalem is Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who has previously served as national chief rabbi and has gained the backing of Bayit Yehudi and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat for election to the position.
Amar held a reception for his followers and supporters on Sunday in his Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Eshkol, where hundreds of loyalists turned up to greet the rabbi and listen to him deliver a Torah lesson.
The rabbi spoke of the importance of reaching out to all parts of the Jewish people, and said it was crucial to draw those who are nonobservant closer to Jewish traditions and practices.