Sephardi chief rabbi meets with predecessor in show of unity

"Meeting [between Yitzhak Yosef and Shlomo Amar] has no political significance," says analyst.

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (L) and former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar (R). (photo credit: OFFICE OF RABBI SHLOMO AMAR)
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (L) and former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar (R).
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and former Sephardi chief rabbi Shlomo Amar met this week for the first time since an acrimonious dispute broke out between Amar and the Yosef family last year, helping to fuel divisions within the Shas party ever since.
Amar and Yosef met on Monday afternoon in Yosef’s succa to bring an end to the feud. The two are related by the marriage of Yosef’s son Ovadia to Amar’s daughter Yehudit.
In late 2013, Amar was serving as Sephardi chief rabbi and trying to secure political backing to enable the passage of legislation that would permit him to stand for reelection. But Shas chairman Arye Deri and the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the party’s longtime spiritual leader – and Yitzhak Yosef’s father – vetoed the legislation.
Amar decided to back a separate candidate, Rabbi Yitzhak Boaron, out of revenge. In the end, Boaron lost to Yosef.
In a press statement released by Amar’s office, he and the current Sephardi chief rabbi discussed the “need to unify ranks within the community of faithful Sephardi Jewry.”
Amar praised Yosef for his “efforts in strengthening the status of the rabbinical courts and the chief rabbinate.”
Amar is even quoted as saying that “the election of Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef to the position of Sephardi chief rabbi was a great blessing for the Jewish people and a great merit in his continuation of our master who enlightened Israel, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef of blessed memory.”
Amar is currently in the running to become Sephardi chief rabbi of Jerusalem. He has the backing of the Bayit Yehudi party and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, giving him a strong chance of winning on October 21.
Despite the display of unity, political commentator and former Shas spokesman Roi Lachmanovitz said the meeting had “no political significance whatsoever for Amar’s relationship with Shas.”
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Lachmanovitz said the purpose was to help prevent Shas from appearing to have lost if Amar is elected. On the other hand, he said, it will increase Amar’s election chances.
Shas and the Ashkenazi United Torah Judaism party have covertly backed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chief municipal rabbi of Safed, for the position, even though he is national-religious not haredi. The move was designed as a possible way to thwart Amar, or at least to pressure him.
It is now unclear how the Shas delegates to the 48-member electoral body will vote.
Yosef's daughter hints she's entering politics
Late Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s daughter, Adina Bar-Shalom, gave indications in an interview published Tuesday that she intends to run for the next Knesset.
In the Yediot Aharonot interview, she responded to remarks that Shas leader Arye Deri had made to the newspaper last week, in which he opposed women running in the party in the next election and said Yosef had as well. Deri rejected the idea of including Bar-Shalom on the Shas list.
“She never spoke about a desire to enter politics when her father was alive, because she knew that if she did, she would never be able to enter his house again,” he said.
Bar-Shalom responded that if he would say such a thing, Deri apparently did not know her father very well.
“He wasn’t in my father’s house for 13 years, so he should not claim to know what my father would think about me entering politics,” she said. “What does he know about my father? He apparently does not know him at all.”