Bill to Abolish Dual Chief Rabbinate Moves Forward

YERUSHALAYIM -
United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A bill to abolish the dual offices of Chief Sephardi and Chief Ashkenazi Rabbis passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset plenum.

The proposed law would provide instead for a member of the Supreme beis din of the Israeli rabbinate to be chosen by the committee for appointing Dayanim, which would then go to the president of Israel for approval. He would then serve as nasi, or president, of the rabbinate.

The Chief Rabbinate itself expressed once again their strong opposition to the bill. “The offices of the Chief Rabbis address the broad needs of the Israeli population, they are not redundant, as might appear.”

“The Rishon LeTzion (Sephardi spiritual leader), represents a splendid tradition of some 380 years, a position which has been filled by the Torah luminaries, and the Sephardi Chief Rabbi similarly is part of a distinguished century-old tradition. The proposal to sever this tradition will deprive the public of needed rabbinical services … and it is part of a wave of anti-religious measures which we have been witness to in recent months.”

Shas leader Aryeh Deri said that “the unity of the Jewish people is not what stands behind this bill. Most of the MK’s who supported it, would equally support a bill to abolish the Chief Rabbinate.

“Most of the citizens of this country want a Chief Rabbinate, they want tradition, they want Orthodox Judaism. But they are the silent majority; and we mostly hear the loud minority.”

The move was also attacked by United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler in the Knesset plenum, who expressed astonishment at the Knesset’s attempt to meddle in the religious affairs of the state.

“What does the Knesset have to do with the Chief Rabbis?” Rabbi Eichler asked. “Did anyone check how many social workers and national insurance clerks, and so on [in the government employ], who don’t do anything?”

Rabbi Eichler further charged that the bill was part of the ongoing campaign to undermine Torah Judaism in the country.