Chief Rabbi contenders officially submit candidacy

List includes name of Rabbi Eliyahu who is embroiled in a legal battle over alleged incitement against Arabs.

July 17, 2013 20:59
2 minute read.
Rabbi David Stav at the Knesset

Rabbi David Stav speaking at Knesset 370. (photo credit: Avi Friedman)


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The allocated time period for officially submitting a candidacy to stand in the elections to be Israel’s new Sephardi and Ashkenazi chief rabbis has ended.

The deadline was 5 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, by which time 10 candidates had submitted their names for consideration by the 150-member election committee.

The candidates for Sephardi chief rabbi are Eliyahu Abergil, president of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court; Ratzon Arusi, chief municipal rabbi of Kiryat Ono; Tzion Shalom Boaron, a rabbinical judge on the Supreme Rabbinical Court; Yehuda Deri, chief municipal rabbi of Beersheba and brother of Shas chairman Arye Deri; Shmuel Eliyahu, chief municipal rabbi of Safed and son of the former Sephardi chief rabbi, the late Mordechai Eliyahu; and Yitzhak Yosef, author of the authoritative 38- volume work on Jewish law Yalkut Yosef and son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

The candidates for Ashkenazi chief rabbi are David Lau, chief municipal rabbi for Modi’in; Eliezer Igra, a rabbinical judge on the Supreme Rabbinical Court; Yaakov Shapira, dean of the Merkaz Harav yeshiva and son of former Ashkenazi chief rabbi the late Avraham Shapira; and David Stav, chief municipal rabbi of Shoham and chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical association.

The election will take place on July 14 in the afternoon, and the results will be announced that same day.

In some last-minute drama, Shas’ candidate Yitzhak Yosef required the Council of the Chief Rabbinate to convene for an emergency session because his authorization to serve as a chief municipal rabbi had expired.

The council convened at 2 p.m. on Wednesday and renewed Yosef’s authorization.

One of the requirements for candidates of the Chief Rabbinate is qualification to be a city rabbi or rabbinical judge.

Yosef has never served as a chief municipal rabbi or held any other public office, although he is highly respected as an authority in Jewish law and is dean of the Hazon Ovadia yeshiva in Jerusalem, founded by his father in 1973.

It is possible that not all 10 candidates will ultimately contest the election.

Eliyahu is currently embroiled in a legal battle to preserve his candidacy. Meretz MK Isawi Frej submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice on Tuesday to disqualify the rabbi for alleged incitement against Arabs based on controversial statements he has made about the minority community in the past.

The attorney-general said on Monday that based on those statements, Eliyahu’s candidacy is “inappropriate” and that he would not provide legal support for the rabbi in court.

The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

There is also a possibility that Deri and Shapira will withdraw owing to loyalties to other candidates or their sponsors. Deri’s candidacy could divert votes away from one of the leading Sephardi candidates, Yosef, a move that would not endear Deri to Yosef’s father. In addition, Shapira’s candidacy could divert votes away from Lau, one of the two leading Ashkenazi candidates.

Although Shapira comes from the national religious movement, he was hoping for the endorsement of some of the leading haredi rabbis, which was nevertheless not forthcoming.

Neither Deri nor Shapira are likely to win the election.

Stav and Lau are the two leading Ashkenazi candidates, while Yosef, Boaron and Eliyahu (if he is not disqualified) are expected to receive the lion’s share of votes in the election for the Sephardi position.

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