Family split

Two of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's sons seek J'lem Sephardi Chief Rabbi post.

By MATTHEW WAGNER
September 23, 2007 21:51
2 minute read.
rabbi ovadia yosef asking question 298

ovadia yosef asking 298. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

In a race for rabbinic office that may turn into a messy family affair, two of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's sons are competing to become the next Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. Yosef's personal favorite is his son Yitzhak, the author of a popular set of books on Jewish law called Yalkut Yosef. However, David, Yosef's other son, who heads the huge Yecheve Da'at Yeshiva in Har Nof, Jerusalem and who has close ties to Shas's charismatic former chairman Aryeh Deri, is also interested in obtaining the prestigious title. Jerusalem has been without a chief rabbi for four years ever since Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shalom Mashash and Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yitzhak Kolitz passed away within a few months of each other. However, numerous delays to new appointments have been caused by political wrangling, a dispute over whether to appoint one or two chief rabbis in Jerusalem and the fact that there is no chosen religious council chairman. Sources in Shas said that David, who lacks the backing of his father, does not have a chance. David told The Jerusalem Post that the subject was "sensitive" and therefore preferred not to talk about his candidacy, although he did not deny he was running. Since Deri was banished from Shas's leadership after being convicted for bribery, David, who continued to back Deri, has also lost favor within Shas's inner power circles. Just two weeks ago, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who technically holds the Religious Affairs portfolio, signed new municipality directives that cleared the way for the appointment of two chief rabbis - one Sephardi and one Ashkenazi - in Jerusalem. According to the temporary head of Jerusalem's Religious Council, Attorney Moshe Isaac Ositcher, the new directives allow Olmert to determine in advance which candidate will be chosen. Yitzhak Cohen, Shas's representative inside the Prime Minister's Office who is responsible for religious affairs, also helped put together the directives. Due to Olmert's political ties to Shas, the only religious party in the government coalition, and considering Cohen's hands-on involvement with the drafting of the directives, it is highly likely that Yosef will be given the prerogative to choose Jerusalem's next Sephardi Chief Rabbi. One senior source inside Jerusalem's religious council said that David is more traveled, knows English and is a better public speaker than Yitzhak, while Yitzhak is considered more of a halachic authority. Yitzhak's son is married to the daughter of Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar. Meanwhile, the race for the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem seems to be cinched already. If he decides to run, Rabbi Yosef Yekutiel Efrati - head of a successful kosher supervision operation called Kashrut Le'mehadrin which specializes in produce - has close ties to Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the most respected halachic authority among haredi Ashkenazi Jews.


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