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Israelis Hope Boston Jewish Scholar Will Become Their Chief Rabbi

February 24, 1960
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Reports that the refusal of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik of Boston to be a candidate for the post of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi may not be final received prominent coverage in the Jerusalem press today.

The reports were based on the contents of a second letter from the Boston rabbinical scholar. In his first letter, to Mizrachi leader and Interior Minister Moshe Shapiro, Rabbi Soloveitchik had indicated he was not a candidate. His second letter, to Rabbi Reuven Katz of Petach Tikvah, indicated that his position had been motivated by the personal and political issues introduced in the procedures for election of a new Chief Rabbi to succeed the late Rabbi Isaac Herzog who died last summer.

Rabbi Katz expressed the opinion that Rabbi Soloveitchik could be persuaded to change his mind if he received assurances that partisanship would not influence the election of a new Chief Rabbi. Haaretz, Israel’s leading non-party newspaper, declared editorially today that Israel would be the loser “if the greatest of American rabbis and one of the greatest sages of Torah of this generation were to stand by his refusal.”

The issues presumed to be disturbing Rabbi Soloveitchik developed when Rabbi Yaacov M. Toledano, Minister for Religious Affairs, proposed changes in procedures for the election of Chief Rabbis to which the Israel rabbinate registered strong opposition. The dispute brought a deadlock in the selection of a Chief Rabbinate Council which was broken Sunday when the Cabinet authorized Rabbi Toledano to extend the tenure of the Council for five months beyond its February 20 expiration date.

The five-month period was a compromise between a three-month extension suggested by Rabbi Toledano and a year extension proposed by coalition members of the National Religious party. During those five months, the Government and the Chief Rabbinate Council will seek to promulgate the regulations for the election to the two posts of Chief Rabbi, Ashkenazi and Sephardi.

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