(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The nine-year saga of electing chief rabbis for Jerusalem took another turn this
week, allowing the process to begin anew.
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On Sunday, the committee for
the election of the chief rabbis came to an agreement as to which synagogues
would be represented on the selection board that will eventually choose the next
The chief rabbi position has been vacant since 2002 because
of political wrangling between various religious streams in the city. In
December 2005, at the behest of the municipality, it was decided to have two
chief rabbis, one Sephardi and one Ashkenazi.
The committee that selected
the 24 synagogues that will send representatives to the election board was made
up of five delegates – one representative chosen by Religious Services Minister
Ya’acov Margi (Shas); two representatives of the Chief Rabbinate; and two
representatives of the Jerusalem Municipality.
In September, Margi said
in an interview with the Hadrei Haradim website that certain “agreements” had
been reached between him and Mayor Nir Barkat regarding the selection of
synagogues, which may have helped lead to this week’s
Although the names of the 24 synagogues selected are not
yet publicly available, sources within the municipality have indicated that
there are enough national-religious synagogues on the list to make it possible
to elect a national-religious Ashkenazi chief rabbi.
“The integration of
Jerusalem synagogues in the selection of the chief rabbis is a milestone in the
lengthy process that I have led to ensure that there will be a
national-religious chief rabbi. I see in this decision a significant achievement
for the pluralistic population of the city,” city councilor Rachel Azaria
(Yerushalmim) said on Monday.
The Israel Broadcasting Authority reported
that the likely candidates to be brought forward for a vote are Rabbi Aryeh
Stern (Ashkenazi), the head of the Horev Synagogue in the Katamon neighborhood,
and Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, son of the spiritual leader of Shas Rabbi Ovadia
However, the haredi Degel HaTorah faction on the Jerusalem City
Council has indicated that it may petition the High Court of Justice to halt the
process due to the now probable exclusion of an Ashkenazi haredi
Agreement was reached on the list of synagogues following a
protracted battle over the criteria required for a synagogue to qualify as a
candidate to send a representative to the selection board, which has 48
delegates in total.
In 2010, Barkat petitioned the High Court to stop the
election process because of objections to the criteria used to select
synagogues, which would have likely led to an Ashkenazi haredi rabbi being
elected. The petition noted that more than 60 percent of the synagogues selected
to send delegates to the election board were haredi.
Barkat has argued
that the city requires at least one rabbi from the national-religious stream, to
ensure that all residents are fairly represented, given that the Jewish
population of the city is comprised of 30 percent ultra-Orthodox residents, and
70% national-religious, traditional and secular residents, according to the
The petition was accepted and the process was started
The final selection board for the Jerusalem chief rabbis will
consist of 24 representatives from synagogues; 12 representatives from the
municipality; and 12 representatives chosen by the Religious Services Ministry
In a statement issued on Monday, Barkat repeated his message
backing a national-religious candidate, saying “a chief rabbi from the Zionist
sector for one of the two city rabbi positions is a necessity in a city where
70% of the Jewish population is Zionist and has its own unique
“The city rabbi has a significant role in representing the city
and all its citizens, involvement in issues related to the city and the
management of religious affairs for the needs of the different populations in
it,” he continued. “It is necessary that the chief rabbis of Israel’s capital
will be democratically elected, reflecting the composition of the city’s