Above: Haredi Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau
Chief Rabbi Blocks Ordination Exam Reform At Last Minute As Candidates Forced To Wait Up To 2 Years For Exam Results
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The Ministry of Religious Services, which is controlled by the right-wing Zionist Orthodox HaBayit HaYehudi Party, thought it had reformed the notoriously cumbersome and slow rabbinic ordination examination process used by the haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate.
The process was not slow or cumbersome for any halakhic (Orthodox Jewish law) reason, and there was therefore no reasonable reason to think fixing the process would be blocked by one of Israel’s haredi chief rabbis.
And the process really is cumbersome.
According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, 10,000 exams need to be graded every year, and each candidate must pass 12 separate exams during the basic ordination process. And then there are additional exams each year for higher levels of ordination.
The haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate is notoriously inefficient, taking months and even years to grade exams and leaving candidates for ordination in the dark regarding their understanding of the material while they prepare to take additional tests for different and often more complex material without knowing if they properly understand the previous material it is often based on.
On average, it reportedly takes one full year before an ordination candidate is given his test result, and candidates have sometimes been forced to wait two full years to get them.
To fix this atrocious situation a third party vendor was supposed to be hired to collect registration fees, grade the tests and handle other logistics. That vendor would have been required to give ordination candidates their test results within 70 days of the exam date.
The Chief Rabbinate would have remained in charge of writing those exams, and it would also have continued to determine which examiners to use to administer the tests.
The tender for the third party vendor was supposed have been published Monday.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau blocked it because he objects to the increase in exam fees that had to accompany the move to a third party vendor.
An exam now costs candidates 475 shekels ($121).
But if a third party vendor is hired to do the processing and related tasks the haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate fails so miserably at, the cost per exam rises by 325 shekels to 800 NIS ($204).
Lau thinks that is too much money. So he blocked the publication of the tender.
Deputy Religious Services Minister and Zionist Orthodox Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan insisted the privatization would take place anyway, despite Lau’s objections.
“We will go ahead with the tender, there is no other way. I am thinking first and foremost of the unfortunate yeshiva students who wait many months…in some cases as long as two years, for their exam results. My responsibility is to make sure that Israeli citizens get the service they deserve…Criticism of the outsourcing process ignores the current reality of the poor state of the exam processing system. We will continue with the revolution we have started in religious services, including with the rabbinate, the appointment of rabbis, with kashrut, religious councils, and the integration of technological tools in the provision of religious services,” Ben-Dahan told the Jerusalem Post.
Ironically, Lau – whose father was once Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel – allegedly cheated on his ordination exams and was forced to take them a second time – which might be one of the reasons he's so opposed to raising the price.