The new government is expected to create two new positions in the Religious Services Ministry, Israel Hayom reported on Monday: A Chief Rabbi for the Ethiopian community in Israel, as well as a Chief Rabbi for the French Jewish community in Israel.
According to a draft of the coalition agreements, the government will vote on a decision for the allocation of two new positions in the Religious Services Ministry.
According to the Israel Hayom report, Shas chairman Arye Deri has “managed to obtain additional new roles,” in the Religious Services Ministry that Shas is expected to run. These two rabbis will get a government salary equal to those of a chief rabbi of a city.
There has never been a chief rabbi for French Jews since the establishment of the state. There are two Chief Rabbis of Israel, Ashkenazi and Sephardic. There are a few hundreds-of-thousands of French olim in Israel. There are about 160,000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
“The appointments to the positions will be made by the Religious Affairs Minister on behalf of Shas after consultation with the Chief Rabbinate,” the Israel Hayom report states.
Ethiopian Chief Rabbi in government
There has historically been a Chief Rabbi for Ethiopian Jews in the ministry and the current chief Rabbi is Reuven Wabashat, who has been appointed in 2018. Yet this report may be hinting towards the fact that Shas is interested in changing the position of Ethiopian Chief Rabbi. There are many groups of olim in Israel without a position of a rabbi that is considered to be their spiritual leader. There are hundreds of thousands of American olim as well as millions of descendants of Moroccan olim and many others.
The reason to institute a French chief rabbi is for Shas to further connect with the French olim in Israel. MK Yossi Taieb is an oleh from France and advocates for the community in the Knesset. The party is one of the only ones that invested large sums of money in a targeted campaign to the French-speaking community in Israel. This is yet another way for them to strengthen their support in these communities. Most of the Jews in France and many of the olim are from Northern African descent and therefore can potentially have strong connections with the Shas Party.