Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman 370.
(photo credit: Israel Bardogo)
Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan (Bayit Yehudi) said on Tuesday
that if Likud were to support any candidate for the position of Ashkenazi chief
rabbi other than the one recommended by Bayit Yehudi, it would constitute a
violation of the coalition agreement between the two parties.
was reacting to reports in the media that Natan Eshel – a senior advisor to
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his former chief of staff – has been
working on behalf of the prime minister to muster support for the candidacy of
Rabbi David Lau, currently chief rabbi of Modi’in.
“It is written in the
coalition agreement that Likud will support the candidate recommended by Bayit
Yehudi,” Ben- Dahan told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on
“As far as I understand it, they [Likud] must support Rabbi
David Stav, who is our candidate for the position of Ashkenazi chief rabbi. I
find it hard to believe that the prime minister wants to violate the coalition
The deputy minister said that it was possible such a move
would lead to a coalition crisis.
Ben-Dahan also addressed the
possibility that Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman – the well-respected chief rabbi
of Migdal Ha’emek and the founder of the Migdal Ohr social guidance and
educational network – will enter the race for Ashkenazi chief
Ben-Dahan said if Grossman does decide to run it would scupper any
chance that a national religious rabbi would be elected.
Grossman will enter, he will have the best chance of being elected to the post,”
the deputy minister said.
“It’s pretty clear he’d get total support from
the haredim and the Chabad movement too.
Shas will certainly support him
and Rabbi Grossman, because of his personality, has a great deal of support in
secular society, [which will translate] to support from mayors and heads of
regional municipal councils in the [150-member] electoral committee for the
Grossman, who has yet to announce whether or not he will
run, is a Pinsk-Karlin hassid who became known in the 1970s as the “Discotheque
Rabbi” due to his frequent visits to nightclubs in his town of Migdal Ha’emek to
converse with the community’s youth.
With respect to the race for
Sephardi chief rabbi, Ben- Dahan said that he is working to have Rabbi Shmuel
Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safed, nominated by Bayit Yehudi as the party’s official
Eliyahu’s candidacy will be heavily opposed by activist groups
who have filed law suits against the rabbi in the past on the basis of
incitement to racial hatred over comments he has made about Israel’s Arab
In 2006, Eliyahu was indicted on grounds of racial incitement
for comments he made in 2002 and 2004. Charges were conditionally dropped when
the rabbi apologized for his comments, retracted them and pledged not make
similar comments in the future.
In 2004, Eliyahu was quoted in local Kol
Ha’emek V’hagalil newspaper as saying a college for Arabs should be created so
that only Jews could attend the Safed Academic College to prevent intermingling
between young Arabs and Jews.
Eliyahu also said in an interview on the
Reshet Bet radio station that he urged people not to sell or rent apartments to
Arabs. He underlined this view in December 2010, when he initiated an open
letter, signed by 50 prominent rabbis, arguing that Jewish law prohibits selling
or renting property to non-Jews.
Support for Eliyahu will be a
significant public relations problem for Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett,
but he is facing pressure from the conservative wing of his faction to back
Eliyahu, especially in light of the party’s endorsement for Stav, who was
heavily opposed by right-leaning elements of Bayit Yehudi’s rabbinic leadership.