(JTA) — David Lau and Yitzchak Yosef, both sons of former Israeli chief rabbis, were elected Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel, respectively.
Wednesday’s vote by 147 Knesset members, local officials and regional rabbis was the culmination of a tense, months-long campaign with an unusually high public profile. Both terms are for 10 years.
Lau, who won 68 votes in the three-candidate race, is the son of former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. Like his father, who served from 1993 to 2003, Lau hopes to serve as a bridge between Israel’s Modern Orthodox and haredi Orthodox communities. He is currently chief rabbi of the central Israeli city of Modiin.
Yosef is the son of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Sephardi Orthodox Shas party who held the post from 1973 to 1983. The head of the Hazon Ovadia yeshiva in Jerusalem, which was founded by and named for his father, picked up 68 votes to defeat three candidates; next was Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu with 49. His win is seen as a victory for Shas, which the elder Yosef founded soon after his chief rabbi term ended.
Lau staved off the challenge of runner-up Rabbi David Stav, a reformist candidate who gained widespread support from secular Israelis with his pledges to streamline the rabbinate bureaucracy. Stav, who garnered 54 votes, also was the preferred candidate of several political parties, including the centrist Yesh Atid, the hardline Yisrael Beiteinu and the nationalist Jewish Home.