Every ten years Israel selects a new Chief Rabbi. Actually we select two – one Ashkenazi and one Sefaerdi. Do we have a real need for two Chiefs? I would argue that we do not have a real need for even one. It is an institution that is outdated and outmoded. It is a drain on the Israeli treasury and is respected by very few. This election has brought about a new nadir.
So called secular Israelis would be happy to do without. The fervently Orthodox have their own rabbis. No longer is the Chief Rabbinate Zionist. It is party to the schemes that allow far too many to avoid military service and taxes. Its corruption is legendary.
The current Sefardi Chief Rabbi, Amar, is seeking a second term – something that will require Knesset action to change the law. At a time when Israel-Diaspora affairs need to be strengthened do we really want to reward a rabbi who describes the major Jewish denominations of the world in the following terms? “They brought terrible destruction on the Jewish people in the Diaspora;” they have “uprooted every foundation of the Torah;” “their entire intention is to harm the holiness and purity of Torah;” and finally, they “corrupt and sabotage” the Land of Israel.
But what are our alternatives?
One name being bandied about for Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi is Rav Shmuel Eliyhu of Tzfat. Eliyahu is a vile racist who has called for a ban on the sale or rental of Jewishly owned homes to Jon-Jews and for communal ostracism of those who fail to comply. He has called for the “slaughter of one million Palestinians.” He has been taken in by the police for incitement. He has publically excused sex offenders and has a base views toward Gays. He has called upon religious women to be excused from national service. The man is a disgrace to Judaism and to the State which pays his salary.
Not clear who the candidates will be for Sefardi Chief Rabbi but some of the names being bandied about include Rav Avraham Yosef, who is the son of Rav Ovadia Yosef and serves as Chief Rabbi of Holon, and Beersheva’s Chief Rabbi Yehuda Deri, who also just happens to be a brother of the Shas party’s leader. Oy!
On the clean side of the ledger is Rav David Stav, chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical group. But can a rabbi be elected when he has been branded by former Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef as dangerous to Judaism and to the Torah. Rav Yosef called Stav “an unworthy man” and added that he was “not at all God-fearing.” The Tzohar rabbis have called upon Rav Ovadia to repent.
A recent proposal to expand those that select the new incoming rabbis to include 25% woman has gone nowhere fast. MK Elazar Stern who made the proposal said if no change is made, “A group of appointed rabbis is likely to perpetuate the Rabbinate’s detachment from the needs of Israeli society. With no change, the Chief Rabbinate will continue to be cut off… Just two percent women in the electing body is just one example of this.”
Yet I, for one, hope the process of choosing the rabbis does not drag on. Weighty decisions need to be made. Forget conversion, civil marriage, corruption in Kashrut, and nepotism. Never mind Torah study and civil behavior. We learned last Friday that our Rabbinate has devised a plan, "Operation Bourekas," a sage requirement that will keep the simpleton Jews from falling prey to mistakes in the culinary world. Our Rabbinate has demanded, from this day on (I am not making this up) “dairy bourekas must be baked as a triangle and parve bourekas must be square-shaped.” Thank goodness for our pious rabbis who work tirelessly on the vital issues that affect society.