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Mamzerim Case Sparks Bitter Row Between Chief Rabbis

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The controversial Langer case has sparked a bitter public row between Israel’s newly elected chief rabbis over the nature of the rabbinical court that will try to find a halachic solution to the problem of Hanoch and Miriam Langer. The brother and sister were branded mamzerim (illegitimates) by the rabbinate and for bidden to marry the partners of their choice.

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef claimed that he was given an ultimatum last Friday by Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren who, he said, threatened to “cut off all contact” with him and refuse to participate in a joint inaugural ceremony unless he agreed to adjudicate the Langer case in the manner proposed by Rabbi Goren. The ultimatum deadline was today. Rabbi Goren has denied that there was an ultimatum but Rabbi Yosef repeated the charge in an interview published today in the Jerusalem Post. He said he would not agree to Rabbi Goren’s proposal and resented his threats and ultimatum.

Rabbi Goren, who has pledged that one of his first tasks as Chief Rabbi would be to settle the Langer case which has aroused bitter feelings in Israel against the religious establishment, wants Rabbi Yosef to join him and one other rabbinical judge on a special three-man court to re-hear the case. Rabbi Yosef insists that the case be heard by a regular rabbinical court with neither chief rabbi participating but with recourse of appeal to the Rabbinical Supreme Court on which both chief rabbis sit. Rabbi Goren refuses to sit with members of the Supreme Rabbinical Court who opposed his election and who he considers personal enemies.

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