Jerusalem Rabbinate chairman dismissed by Matan Kahana

The professional head of the Jerusalem Rabbinate has been accused of improper behavior in a series of incidents, highlighted by municipal comptroller reports.

 Minister of Religious Affairs Matan Kahana attends a plenary session at the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem, July 26, 2021.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Minister of Religious Affairs Matan Kahana attends a plenary session at the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem, July 26, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana has decided to end the tenure of Yehoshua Yishai, the chairman of the Jerusalem local rabbinate, due to a series of disciplinary problems and other complaints that have been made against him in recent years.

Yishai, who was a Shas Party appointee some 10 years ago, will now finish his term by January 19, 2022.

A disciplinary committee that was formed in 2020 summoned Yishai to a hearing in June that year over a slew of reports of problematic activity. It also recommended earlier this year that he be dismissed as chairman of the Jerusalem Local Religious Council, the body which runs municipal religious services such as marriage registration, kashrut, funerals, and mikveh [ritual bath] services.

Yishai has been accused of involvement in numerous scandals involving the Jerusalem Religious Council, which led the Jerusalem city comptroller to conclude in an exhaustive document in 2017 that the council’s operations under his management “is not in order legally, disciplinarily or ethically.”

The report noted that Yishai was flown to foreign destinations at the expense of a company which provided services to the Jerusalem Religious Council, raising concerns of the improper award of council contracts.

THE HEADQUARTERS of the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem, as seen here in 2013. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)THE HEADQUARTERS of the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem, as seen here in 2013. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Yishai also allegedly gave jobs to his close family members without issuing a tender as required by law, and was also suspected of using council maintenance employees for his private purposes.

In addition, Yishai also sought to undermine the status of Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern. In one incident last year, he had the lock on Stern’s office changed, effectively locking the rabbi out of his office.

In Kahana’s letter to Yishai informing him that his tenure as chairman of the council was being terminated, he also mentioned the recent issuance of improper tenders for jobs with the religious council.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post in April, the Jerusalem Religious Council issued tenders for the positions of kashrut inspector, and eruv (Shabbat boundary) inspector, which included a requirement that the candidate have a beard, thereby illegally discriminating against women.

Kahana said in his letter that under Yishai’s tenure the Jerusalem Religious Council had been put on a much improved financial footing.

“Together with this, however, the findings that have arisen in reports are not commensurate with norms of behavior expected from someone serving in a public position,” said the minister, adding that Yishai’s behavior had harmed the image of public religious services.

United Torah Judaism MK Uri Maklev condemned Kahana’s decision.

“The destructiveness and politicization of Minister Kahana knows no bounds, including regarding professionals who proved their professionalism and experience,” said Maklev.

“They are a target for dismissal in order to allow personal, political appointments. This is another step in the destruction of religious services, kashrut and conversion in Israel.”