Bill mandating only one chief rabbi set to advance

Bill would end practice of electing both an Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbi; next chief rabbi will be elected in 2023.

January 19, 2014 02:08
1 minute read.
A CHIEF RABBINATE employee gets ready for vote.

Chief Rabbinate elections 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation is expected to advance a bill on Sunday that would end the practice of electing both an Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbi the next time a chief rabbi is elected in 2023.

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While a similar private member’s bill passed in the committee last month, the new legislation is much more substantial because it is co-sponsored by Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi), his deputy Eli Ben-Dahan, and the head of the committee, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua).

“In a state that has one president, one Supreme Court chief justice, one prime minister, and one IDF chief of staff, there is no justification for duplicating the role of the chief rabbi,” Livni said. “We should stop old racial divides in the nation and bring people closer.”

To date, and even preceding the establishment of the state, an Ashkenazi chief rabbi and a Sephardi chief rabbi have been selected to serve as the country’s senior clerics.

According to the bill, the chief rabbi would head the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, while a separate position, that of the president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, would be created, who would serve automatically on the council. Currently, the two chief rabbis take it in turns to fill these roles, filling them for five years each during their 10-year tenures.

“This is an important step that symbolizes the unity among the people,” Bennett said. “Electing one chief rabbi is the kind of thing you can’t help but ask yourself why it did not happen sooner.”

The ministerial committee will also vote on a bill sponsored by Likud MK Gila Gamliel that would restrict the ability of banks to charge fees. Gamliel said the bill was important because banks made NIS 42 billion over the past year, 40% of which came from 100 kinds of fees.

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