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Elections to Chief Rabbinate Postponed Up to Nine Months

The Knesset has approved a bill postponing elections to the Chief Rabbinate for “up to nine months.” The measure extended the five-year terms of the incumbent Ashkenazic and Sephardic Chief Rabbis and the Chief Rabbinate Council, which expired Oct. 15, for the additional period. The original bill, calling for a one-year extension, was modified by the Knesset’s Law Committee.

The Chief Rabbinate came under scathing criticism from Labor Alignment MK Haim Zadok who was Minister of Justice in the Rabin government and served briefly as acting Minister of Religious Affairs after the National Religious Party was ousted from the Labor coalition last year. He charged that the constant feuding between Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, brought the rabbinate into disrepute and mode it a “symbol of ridicule and disgust among the people.”

Zadok said the Goren-Yosef disputes had paralyzed the work of the Chief Rabbinate and caused delays and disorganization within the rabbinical court system. Another Labor MK, former Police Minister Shlomo Hillel, suggested that the draft bill be referred to the environmental quality committee instead of the law committee.

Meanwhile, the contretemps between Goren and Yosef caused the postponement of elections to the Jerusalem Chief Rabbinate. Likud and NRP factions in the town council requested the delay while they try to find a candidate to run against Rabbi Bazalel Zolti for the office of Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.

Zolti, who has been on bad terms with Goren for many years, is supported by the Labor members of the town council as well as by the ultra-Orthodox Aguda and Poale Aguda factions. He is also strongly backed by Yosef, apparently because he has been a prime mover in opposition to Goren in Orthodox circles. His election is considered a foregone conclusion.

Seven candidates have entered the race for Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. The favorite is not an Israeli but Rabbi Shalom Mashash of Morocco. He has the support of both Yosef and Goren on condition that he immigrates to Israel immediately.

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