The haredi Sefardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Yosef allegedly tried to rig the appointment process for rabbi-judges to the Supreme Rabbinical Court in order to block a Sefardi Zionist Orthodox rabbi who is supportive of women, Yair Ben-Menachem, from being appointed.
Above: Yitzhak Yosef
Haredi Sefardi Chief Rabbi Allegedly Tries To Gain Exclusive Control Over Senior Rabbi-Judge Appointments In Order To Block Zionist Orthodox Candidates
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The haredi Sefardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Yosef allegedly tried to rig the appointment process for rabbi-judges to the Supreme Rabbinical Court in order to block a Sefardi Zionist Orthodox rabbi who is supportive of women, Yair Ben-Menachem, from being appointed, the Jerusalem Post and other Israeli media reported.
Seven out of nine seats on the Supreme Rabbinical Court are vacant. The only two filled seats belong to Yosef and the Ashkenazi haredi Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau.
Yosef wanted to insert a clause in amended criteria for the rabbinic judicial appointments that would have given the president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court – him – veto power over all appointments.
The proposed criteria, including Yosef’s clause, were drawn up by Rabbis Yehudi Deri (brother of Shas Party leader and new Interior Minister Aryeh Deri), Yaakov Shapira, and Yitzhak Ralbag (Lau’s father-in-law).
The existing criteria only require that candidates have passed the Chief Rabbinate’s dayanut (rabbi-judge ordination) exams and have served as a rabbi-judge in one of Israel’s 12 state regional rabbinical courts for three consecutive years or more.
The new proposed criteria would change this by mandating candidates must have previously served as a rabbi-judge for at least ten years on a state regional rabbinical court and must also have headed one of those courts. These changes would also exclude many potential Zionist Orthodox candidates because Zionist Orthodox rabbis have largely been blocked from holding those positions since haredim took over the Chief Rabbinate more than a decade ago.
But the changes were blocked, primarily because of Yosef’s clause, by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the Zionist Orthodox HaBayit HaYehudi Party. She personally intervened at last minute by asking the Chief Rabbinate’s Council not to vote on the new criteria at its meeting today, noting the proposed criteria are “designed to thwart specific candidates without discussion of the rabbinical judges appointments committee.”
The Chief Rabbinate’s legal adviser, Harel Goldberg, also told the Chief Rabbinate the new criteria were extremely problematic and noted they could easily be used to circumvent the entire legally mandated appointments process, which is supposed to happen through an appointments panel consisting of 11 members that includes both chief rabbis, two sitting Supreme Rabbinical Court rabbi-judges, two government ministers; two members of Knesset, two members of the Israel Bar Association, and one female who works as a advocate for women with cases before a state rabbinical court.
“Changing the criteria would circumvent the law for rabbinical judges and would make the work of the committee for selecting rabbinical judges redundant as an elective and independent committee,” Shaked noted.
Allegations that Yosef was trying to cook the books on these rabbi-judge appointments to block were denied by Yosef’s office.
Appointments to the Supreme Rabbinical Court are being delayed by “a bloc formed by politicians and those with vested alien interests for whom the good of those coming before the gates of the rabbinical court is not at the top of their priorities,” Yosef’s office reportedly said. Yosef himself claimed the new criteria were only draft proposals that were written without his input.
Yosef allegedly wants to bloc Ben-Menachem’s appointment and the potential appointment of other Zionist-Orthodox rabbis who are sympathetic to the plight of women and who tend to find leniencies in halakha (Jewish law) to try to help them. Yosef also allegedly fears Ben-Menachem appointment because Ben-Menachem is also Sefardi, and Yosef wants to be seen as the only go-to source for Sefardim to gain such appointments in the future.
Even if the new criteria are permanently scrapped, haredim can still block all of the Zionist Orthodox candidates. The selection committee has nine members. Seven votes are necessary for appointment. Both haredi Chief Rabbis of Israel and one haredi member of Knesset, Yisrael Eichler from the Ashkenazi haredi United Torah Judaism Party, sit on the selection committee. If all three vote against a candidate, that candidate cannot be appointed.
[Hat Tip: Ellis Gross.]