Voting for Israel’s New Chief Rabbis Will Take Place March 15

Rabbi Avraham Shapiro, 65, a veteran Supreme Rabbinical Court judge and dean of the Merkaz Harav Kook Yeshiva in Jerusalem, is now the frontrunner for the post of Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi, following the Knesset’s refusal Monday to approve a government bill that would have enabled the incumbents — Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef — to prolong their terms of office.

Shapiro’s name was formally entered yesterday after National Religious Party leaders brought pressure on him to agree to run for the post. Other Ashkenazic candidates are Rabbi Yitzhak Kolitz, a leading dayan and noted Tel Aviv rabbi, and Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Chief Rabbi of Haifa (and Goren’s brother-in-law).

On the Sephardic side, Rabbi Shlomo Eliahu, another supreme dayan, will run against 42-year-old Bat Yam Chief Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi-Doron for the post of Sephardic Chief Rabbi. A third man, David Chelouche of Netanya, was seeking support for his candidacy before the lists closed yesterday. The voting for the new Chief Rabbis — by a 150-man electoral college comprising rabbis and politicians — will take place on March 15 on Rosh Hodesh Nisson.

Yosef, reacting with bitterness to the Knesset decision Monday, said: “I wanted to continue to serve my people, but they don’t want me. The rabbinate buries its incumbents …”

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