Compromise Reached on Election Procedure for New Chief Rabbinate

A compromise agreement that will permit elections to be held for a new Chief Rabbinate was finally approved by the National Religious Party leadership after a stormy session here Thursday night despite die-hard opposition from its rabbinical members. The compromise had been worked out by an ad hoc ministerial committee composed of members of the NRP and Labor Alignment after the legal term of the present chief rabbis expired Jan. 31.

The rabbis among the NRP leaders protested that they were not consulted in the talks with the Laborites and called the slight almost “an insult to the Torah.” Some of the younger NRP leadership objected in principle to the Labor Alignment’s intervention in rabbinical problems which “they don’t understand.”

The compromise agreement, however, gives the rabbis a majority of seats on the electoral body that will conduct the elections. It is conditional on the government agreeing to extend the expired term of the incumbent Chief Rabbis for a period, probably six months, during which election preparations will be made. It also found a formula for precluding the candidacy of 86-year-old Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Isser Yehuda Unterman without decreeing a statutory age limit for the office of Chief Rabbi which most Israeli rabbis bitterly oppose.

The compromise states that a Chief Rabbi who will not stand as a candidate in the new elections will assume the presidency of the Chief Rabbinate Council without powers. It was clear that this provision refers to Rabbi Unterman who left today on a rabbinical visit to Italy. The agreement stated that no age limit will be established at present, implying that a limit may be established for subsequent elections.

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