Ben-Dahan: If Netanyahu backs Lau for chief rabbi, it would violate coalition agreement

Deputy Religious Services minister says Rabbi Grossman would win if he runs for Ashkenazi chief rabbi.

Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman 370 (photo credit: Israel Bardogo)
Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman 370
(photo credit: Israel Bardogo)
Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan (Bayit Yehudi) said on Tuesday that if Likud were to support any candidate for the position of Ashkenazi chief rabbi other than the one recommended by Bayit Yehudi, it would constitute a violation of the coalition agreement between the two parties.
Ben-Dahan was reacting to reports in the media that Natan Eshel – a senior advisor to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his former chief of staff – has been working on behalf of the prime minister to muster support for the candidacy of Rabbi David Lau, currently chief rabbi of Modi’in.
“It is written in the coalition agreement that Likud will support the candidate recommended by Bayit Yehudi,” Ben- Dahan told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Tuesday.
“As far as I understand it, they [Likud] must support Rabbi David Stav, who is our candidate for the position of Ashkenazi chief rabbi. I find it hard to believe that the prime minister wants to violate the coalition agreement.”
The deputy minister said that it was possible such a move would lead to a coalition crisis.
Ben-Dahan also addressed the possibility that Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman – the well-respected chief rabbi of Migdal Ha’emek and the founder of the Migdal Ohr social guidance and educational network – will enter the race for Ashkenazi chief rabbi.
Ben-Dahan said if Grossman does decide to run it would scupper any chance that a national religious rabbi would be elected.
“If Rabbi Grossman will enter, he will have the best chance of being elected to the post,” the deputy minister said.
“It’s pretty clear he’d get total support from the haredim and the Chabad movement too.
Shas will certainly support him and Rabbi Grossman, because of his personality, has a great deal of support in secular society, [which will translate] to support from mayors and heads of regional municipal councils in the [150-member] electoral committee for the chief rabbis.”
Grossman, who has yet to announce whether or not he will run, is a Pinsk-Karlin hassid who became known in the 1970s as the “Discotheque Rabbi” due to his frequent visits to nightclubs in his town of Migdal Ha’emek to converse with the community’s youth.
With respect to the race for Sephardi chief rabbi, Ben- Dahan said that he is working to have Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safed, nominated by Bayit Yehudi as the party’s official candidate.
Eliyahu’s candidacy will be heavily opposed by activist groups who have filed law suits against the rabbi in the past on the basis of incitement to racial hatred over comments he has made about Israel’s Arab minority.
In 2006, Eliyahu was indicted on grounds of racial incitement for comments he made in 2002 and 2004. Charges were conditionally dropped when the rabbi apologized for his comments, retracted them and pledged not make similar comments in the future.
In 2004, Eliyahu was quoted in local Kol Ha’emek V’hagalil newspaper as saying a college for Arabs should be created so that only Jews could attend the Safed Academic College to prevent intermingling between young Arabs and Jews.
Eliyahu also said in an interview on the Reshet Bet radio station that he urged people not to sell or rent apartments to Arabs. He underlined this view in December 2010, when he initiated an open letter, signed by 50 prominent rabbis, arguing that Jewish law prohibits selling or renting property to non-Jews.
Support for Eliyahu will be a significant public relations problem for Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett, but he is facing pressure from the conservative wing of his faction to back Eliyahu, especially in light of the party’s endorsement for Stav, who was heavily opposed by right-leaning elements of Bayit Yehudi’s rabbinic leadership.