Ashkenazi haredim lose majority in Chief Rabbinate membership vote

Shas, UTJ rabbis parted ways over 'shmita' issue.

September 23, 2008 22:39
3 minute read.
rabbis 88

rabbis 88. (photo credit: )


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The leaders of Ashkenazi haredim suffered a blow to their hegemony in the Chief Rabbinate on Tuesday night while Shas and the national religious camp scored significant victories. In a vote for 10 new members of the Chief Rabbinate's Rabbinical Council, a large number of religious Zionist and Shas-backed rabbis were voted in. Rabbis Ya'acov Shapira, head of Jerusalem's Zionist flagship Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, was chosen along with Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safed. Both Eliyahu and Shapira are sons of former chief rabbis and both are considered national religious. Religious Zionist rabbis who did not make it include Shoham Chief Rabbi David Stav, who is also spokesman for the Hesder Yeshivot and a senior member of Tzohar Rabbis, and Kiryat Shmona Chief Rabbi Tzfania Drori. But the biggest upset was the election of Ashdod Chief Rabbi Avraham Yosef, the son of Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The Lithuanian haredi rabbinic leadership was strongly opposed to Yosef's election, so much so that it caused a schism between Shas and the Ashkenazi haredim. This schism over Avraham Yosef's appointment, which was strongly backed by Ovadia Yosef, prevented Shas and the Ashkenazi haredim from forming a voting bloc that would have given them control of the elections. Yosef's election was seen as a major victory for Shas. Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the supreme halachic authority for Ashkenazi haredim, opposed Yosef's election due to Yosef's lenient approach on laws governing the shmita [Sabbatical] year. Avraham Yosef personally oversaw implementation of a halachic ruling called "heter mechira" that approved sale of produce this Jewish year, which is a shmita year. However, Yosef will probably not be able to take control of the Chief Rabbinate's kashrut supervision as he had hoped since Rabbi Yosef Gliksman, present chairman of the Rabbinate's kashrut council, was reelected to the council. Ten new rabbis, five Ashkenazi and five Sephardi, were chosen for five-year terms. Ashkenazi rabbis elected include Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman, of Migdal Ha'emek, known as the disco rabbi for his outreach with young disco-goers, Rabbi Ya'acov Ruzah, of the Tel Aviv Burial Society, and Rabbi Yitzhak Ralbag, marriage registrar of Jerusalem. Sephardi rabbis included Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz of Ra'anana, Rabbi Shimon Elituv of Mateh Binyamin a Chabad Hassid, and Rabbi Ratzon Arrusi of Kiryat Ono. One hundred an fifty rabbis and public servants convened to vote for the governing council, the final authority on issues involving criteria for the Chief Rabbinate's kashrut supervision standards. The council also is responsible for defining who is a Jew for the purpose of marriage (Jews are not permitted to marry non-Jews according to Halacha), and for approving the appointments of new state-paid rabbis on both the neighborhood and city levels. In addition to the 10 elected rabbis, five additional rabbis who are members of the council - both chief rabbis of Israel, Shlomo Amar and Yonah Metzger, as well as the chief rabbis of the nation's largest cities: Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau (Tel Aviv), Rabbi Shlomo Chelouche (Haifa) and Rabbi Yehuda Deri (Beersheba). Jerusalem does not have a chief rabbi. One of the issues waiting to be decided by the governing council is whether to allow rabbis who receive a salary from the state to enjoy additional sources of income from conducting weddings, giving lectures or providing kashrut supervision. If they had been able to cooperate, any two of the three groups making up the Chief Rabbinate could have controlled the voting. However, bickering and ideological differences prevented this. The three groups making up the chief rabbinate are Shas, which represents Sephardi haredi Jewry, the two Ashkenazi haredi parties, Degel Hatorah and Agudath Yisrael, and the National Religious Party, which represents Zionist rabbis. Half of the 150-person voting body that chose the 10 rabbis is made up of public officials: the mayors of the nation's 25 largest cities, the heads of the six largest local councils, four largest regional councils and 14 largest religious councils, as well as the heads of the religious councils covering the four largest areas. The other half of the voting body is made up of the chief rabbis of the the largest cities, local and regional councils and moshavim. The size of local and regional councils and cities is determined by the size of the Jewish population. In addition, two government ministers, five MKs and 10 public officials appointed by Religious Services Minister Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) are on the voting body.

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