Appointment of new rabbinic judges challenged in High Court

Petition filed by veteran conversion judges says nepotism tainted choice of men close to Amar.

rabbi amar 248 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimsky)
rabbi amar 248
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimsky)
In an unusual case of rabbis suing rabbis in a secular court, a group of veteran conversion court judges petitioned the High Court on Wednesday against the appointment of 10 new conversion judges. The veteran judges argued, through attorneys Yeshayahu Avraham and Moshe Ben-David, that nepotism tainted the appointments, which were made by a special five-man committee. A close aide to committee chairman Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who preferred to remain anonymous, rejected allegations that nearly all the appointees have ties to Amar. The committee is made up of Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander, Lipshitz College head Dr. Yaakov Hadani, Conversion Authority head Rabbi Haim Druckman and former government minister Prof. Yaakov Ne'eman, as well as Amar. However, Hollander purportedly claims that he was duped into voting in favor of the appointments. In the petition a transcript of a radio interview with Hollander is presented in which the commissioner claims he was tricked into believing that there was a dearth of rabbinical judges on the conversion court when in reality there is not enough work to go around. The petitioners also said that the timing of the appointments exploited the distraction of a major military operation in Gaza. Last March a total of 22 new judges were chosen, which was later pared down to 10. On January 1 the cabinet approved the appointments. In addition, the appointments were made in the heat of a national election campaign, which, the petitioners say, contradicted a clear directive from Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz. The close aide to Amar said the new judges were chosen in an open tender. Applicants who had the most formal training as judges were given priority. "Besides, there are at least two new judges who studied in [IDF] hesder yeshivot," said the source, pointing to former IDF Chief Rabbi Israel Weiss, who is one of the 10. The source said that while it was true that there was not too much work for the existing judges, the new judges would provide more flexibility. The Amar aide said that currently, some judges receive many more conversion cases than others because they have good connections with the management of the Conversion Authority.