After Israel’s haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate tried to strip him of his job, primarily over his moderate views on conversion and over his liberal views on women’s public roles in Orthodox religious life, Modern Orthodox Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s tenure as chief rabbi of Efrat was renewed today – but not without a fight.
Above: Rabbi Shlomo Riskin
Modern Orthodox Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Gets 5-Year Job Extension, But Not Because Haredi Chief Rabbis Wanted To Give It To Him
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
After Israel’s haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate tried to strip him of his job, primarily over his moderate views on conversion and over his liberal views on women’s public roles in Orthodox religious life, Modern Orthodox Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s tenure as chief rabbi of Efrat was renewed today, Arutz Sheva reported.
The Council of the Chief Rabbinate extended the 75-year-old Riskin’s term for five more years, but that renewal did go smoothly..
All state-employed chief rabbis of cities, towns or rural areas must under law retire at age 75, unless the Council of the Chief Rabbinate grants a 5-year extension – something that is almost always done automatically, evene when the rabbi involved is not medically fit to serve.
But Riskin was not given that automatic extension and would essentially have been fired if not for widespread public outcry at his mistreatment by the haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate.
During today’s hearing, the Chief Rabbinate’s legal advisor reportedly told the Council of the Chief Rabbinate that under law, only health issues may be considered in making a decision on whether or not to extend the term of a local chief rabbi – meaning the grounds the haredi rabbis wanted to use to fire Riskin were not legal.
So when it granted Riskin’s extension, the Council of the Chief Rabbinate specified that it disagreed with many of Riskin’s halakhic (Orthodox Jewish legal) rulings and his outlook – meaning that while Riskin kept his job, he did so without the full imprimatur of the Chief Rabbinate.
In response to the situation with Riskin, the Council of the Chief Rabbinate also decided today to appoint a committee to draft changes in the regulations regarding term extensions in order to make it possible to take issues other than a rabbi’s health into consideration when assessing an extension request.
Presumably these new guidelines will be used to deny extensions to all rabbis whose halakhic decisions or theological outlook is not sufficiently in line with that of the haredi rabbis who control Israel’s Chief Rabbinate – jobs they got through patronage and through backroom political deals with secular politicians made in exchange for haredi political parties support in Knesset.
Riskin is the first and only Chief Rabbi of Efrat, a Jewish settlement located just over the Green Line in the West Bank that Riskin helped found. He immigrated to Israel in 1983 to take that position. Before that, he was the top rabbi at Manhattan’s premier Modern Orthodox synagogue, Lincoln Square, and a pioneer in outreach to non-Orthodox Jews. Riskin built Lincoln Square from a small synagogue with few members to the largest Orthodox synagogue in Manhattan. Efrat, which was built from scratch, is now a thriving bedroom community of Jerusalem.