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Rabbi Goren Elected Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Yosef Elected Chief Sephardic Rabbi

October 16, 1972
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Rabbi Shlomo Goren and Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, both of Tel Aviv, were elected Ashkenazic and Sephardic Chief Rabbis of Israel respectively today. Rabbi Goren, the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv and former Chief Chaplain of Israel’s Armed Forces, easily defeated the 87-year-old incumbent Isser Yehuda Unterman by a vote of 89-57 cast by the 150 members of the electoral college.

Rabbi Yosef won a closer contest against the incumbent 76-year-old Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim, beating him by a vote of 81-68. Rabbi Yosef is 51 and Rabbi Goren 56. Both are regarded as relatively liberal in their interpretation of halacha, religious law. Both have served as chief rabbis of their respective communities in Tel Aviv for the past three years.

The balloting was conducted at the Hechal Shlomo, the chief rabbinate center here under the supervision of Mordechai Surkiss, a Knesset member and chairman of the election committee. The 150-member electoral college which voted for the chief rabbis and for the 10 members of the Chief Rabbinate Council–five Ashkenazim and five Sephardim–consisted of 80 rabbis and religious court judges and 70 mayors and heads of local religious councils.


The four candidates for chief rabbi shook hands when they arrived at the election hall but did not converse. Rabbi Goren and Rabbi Nissim who campaigned on the same ticket were greeted by singing youths. But the biggest cheers went to Rabbi Yosef who is highly popular in the Sephardic community. Rabbi Unterman was greeted by polite applause.

The voting process lasted about two hours. As each elector was called in alphabetical order to enter the voting booths, tension mounted and at some stages pandemonium broke out as supporters of one or the other candidates electioneered for their choice. Surkiss angrily called for order on several occasions.

The counting of ballots went off without a hitch and there were no complaints of irregularities. As Surkiss tallied the vote he was watched intently by four members of the supervisory committee and four “observers” representing each of the candidates. Rabbi Goren gained an early lead over his opponent but the race between Rabbi Yosef and Rabbi Nissim was touch-and-go until the counting neared its end and the younger rabbi from Tel Aviv drew ahead by 13 votes. A loud cheer went up when the results were announced.

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