Chief Rabbinate balks at keeping Shlomo Riskin as Efrat chief rabbi


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Chief Rabbinate decided not to automatically extend the tenure of Shlomo Riskin as chief rabbi of Efrat.

The Chief Rabbinate Council, led by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, on Monday decided to call Riskin to a meeting to discuss the extension of his tenure for another five years, Israeli media reported.

Riskin has been the chief rabbi of Efrat since 1983, when he helped found the settlement located in the Gush Etzion bloc of the West Bank.

Israeli media, citing sources present at the council meeting, reported Monday that Riskin’s positions on conversion and women in leadership roles prompted objections to the extension of his tenure.

Riskin supports a government directive that would allow municipal chief rabbis to form conversion courts, instead of requiring potential converts to appear before four Chief-Rabbinate-led courts. Riskin also recently appointed a woman, Jennie Rosenfeld, to serve as a religious leader in Efrat, giving her the title “manhiga ruchanit,” or spiritual advisor.

“Above any effort to depose Rabbi Riskin flies a clear red flag of revenge directed against his positions and halachic decisions,” the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization, which works to make marriage and other life-cycle events more user-friendly for Israelis, said in a statement. “Rabbi Riskin, who has led the community of Efrat with love and dedication and is beloved by so many, is a true symbol of spiritual leadership. And instead of exalting his accomplishments, figures in the rabbanut are choosing to force the rabbi into early retirement because of their political considerations or apparently so that they can appoint insiders in his place.”

Riskin told Israeli reporters that he learned of the summons to a meeting through the media and that he would appear before the council when formally notified.

Under Israeli law, chief rabbis may request an extension of their tenure for five years at age 75, but are required to retire by age 80. Riskin will turn 75 on May 28.

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