Reuven Wabashat becomes chief rabbi of Ethiopian community

Wabashat immigrated to Israel at age 2, ordained by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

Rabbi Reuven Wabashat. (photo credit: COURTESY RELIGIOUS SERVICES MINISTRY)
Rabbi Reuven Wabashat.
Rabbi Reuven Wabashat has been appointed as chief rabbi of the Ethiopian community, taking over from Rabbi Yosef Hadane who stepped down in 2017.
Wabashat, 47, was born in Ethiopia and immigrated to Israel with his family when he was two years old.
He was a combat soldier in the Golani infantry brigade, and subsequently became an officer and served as a military rabbi.
Following his release from the army, Wabashat studied in yeshiva under the tutelage of Rabbi Yoram Abergil, and began involving himself in education and teaching, especially within the Ethiopian community, receiving his rabbinic ordination from the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, then chief rabbi of Ramat Gan.
Hadane welcomed Wabashat’s appointment this week, describing him as a Torah scholar who has carried out his work as a rabbi faithfully over the last two decades.
Religious Services Ministry director-general Oded Flus said that Wabashat’s appointment would contribute greatly to the standing of the rabbinate among the Ethiopian community, and that his “rich experience” would stand him in good stead in his new position.
Hadane himself left under something of a cloud, after a request he made to have his tenure extended after he reached the age of retirement at 67 in 2016.
At the time, allegations were made that the decision not to extend his tenure was due to Hadane’s opposition to discriminatory practices against Ethiopians when registering for marriage.
Members of the Ethiopian community have complained on several occasions in the last three years, particularly regarding the Petah Tikva Rabbinate, that they have been unable to register for marriage, because several local rabbinates have refused to accept their conversions through the State Conversion Authority.
Although Ethiopian immigrants from the Beta Israel community are recognized as fully Jewish and do not need to undergo conversion, immigrants belonging to the Falash Mura community, which converted in the 19th century from Judaism to Christianity, are required to undergo a streamlined conversion process by the state after immigrating.
Such extensions as requested by Hadane are routinely given to municipal chief rabbis, including those of an advanced age, but Hadane’s request was denied because, the Religious Services Ministry said, his post was a position within the civil service, and different from municipal chief rabbis.
Eventually the ministry allowed Hadane to continue serving for another six months, but insisted on ultimately replacing him.