Jerusalem chief rabbi locked out of his office in internal quarrel

Religious services minister reprimands Jerusalem Local Religious Council chair over incident

Rabbi Arye Stern (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rabbi Arye Stern
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Jerusalem Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern was locked out of his office by Yehoshua Yishai, head of the Jerusalem Religious Council, on Monday due to internal disputes.
Yishai replaced the lock on Stern’s office door on Sunday night but did not tell him he had done so.
Stern went to his office Monday morning and found he was locked out. As of Monday afternoon, he had not received the new key.
Yishai has frequently opposed Stern’s activities as chief rabbi, and Stern’s office is now accusing him of acting maliciously by having switched the lock.
“This is not behavior that should be done in relation to rabbis, and we hope he will come to his senses and behave,” Stern’s spokesman said about Yishai.
Yishai did not respond to a request for comment.
Stern recently reached the retirement age of 75 for rabbis in state-paid positions. He is seeking an extension until the formation of a new government, when a new chief rabbi can be appointed.
His extension has been held up, and Religious Services Minister Yitzhak Vaknin of Shas has not yet approved it.
Vaknin said he reprimanded Yishai over the incident. He said he called Stern and told him that while the Justice Ministry is deliberating the change in ministry regulations to extend his tenure, “no one will harm the rabbi.”
Vaknin’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on whether Yishai will face disciplinary procedures.
Two months ago, it appeared that Stern’s extension would be granted quickly, with the deputy attorney-general and the Religious Services Ministry legal adviser writing that the request was reasonable and justifiable.
It appeared that Vaknin was prepared to sign off on the extension. But he subsequently said he did not want the change in regulations to pertain specifically to Stern but to other rabbis in the same situation as well.
Karmiel Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Malka, 80, is in a similar situation. Vaknin has indicated he will not approve the extension for Stern unless an extension for Malka is approved by the Attorney-General’s Office and the Justice Ministry, something that appears unlikely.