Kesim slam rabbinate over marriage difficulties

Ethiopian leaders "deeply disappointed" with chief Sephardi rabbi's decision to cut short meeting on anti-Ethiopian discrimination.

Ethiopian spiritual leaders were "deeply disappointed" with Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar on Wednesday for cutting short a meeting with them about the rabbinate's alleged discrimination against Ethiopian marriages. "We tried to present Rabbi Amar with our complaints and requests, but he cut the meeting short, claiming that he had to get to Sderot," said Kes Avihu Azariya, a state-employed spiritual leader of the Ethiopian community in Kiryat Malachi. Amar's spokesman said in response that the kesim had arrived over an hour late to the meeting. "We tried to give each of them enough time to voice their complaints," said the spokesman. "But the rabbi had to get to Sderot for a meeting." Amar was on his way to the Negev town together with other members of the Chief Rabbinate. The rabbis held their weekly meeting there in a show of solidarity with the 20,000 residents under constant threat of rocket fire. Azariya said that for many years the Ethiopian community has demanded unsuccessfully that Amar end rabbinate discrimination against Ethiopian couples interested in marrying. Unlike other Jewish couples, who can verify their Jewishness at any religious council across the country, Ethiopian couples are often obliged to travel outside their hometowns when the local religious councils are not equipped to verify their Jewishness or the local rabbi refuses to recognize Ethiopians as Jews. "We want Amar to issue an order that every single rabbi employed by the Chief Rabbinate must recognize Ethiopians as Jews and every religious council must supply the same services to Ethiopians that are offered to every other Israeli," said Azariya. Amar's spokesman said a meeting with the kesim would be arranged in the near future to discuss their complaints. In addition to their demand to facilitate marriages, the kesim are also demanding an improvement in their salaries and that 12 positions left vacant by kesim's deaths be filled immediately. For 12 years, dozens of kesim have been employed by the state to provide spiritual guidance to their communities. These kesim are not recognized as rabbis by the Chief Rabbinate.