Yerushalayim Mayor Presses for “Zionist” Chief Rabbi For City


nir-barkatYerushalayim Mayor Nir Barkat announced last night that he would back a “Zionist” candidate to serve as Yerushalayim’s chief rabbi. “I believe that a chief rabbi, like a mayor, should be able to embrace all elements of yerushalayim’s diverse populace and connect the entire Jewish people to Yerushalayim, including secular Israelis who love Yerushalayim and who serve in the army,” said Barkat in an emotionally charged speech at the municipality building. “I am convinced that choosing a Zionist chief rabbi is a necessity in a city in which 70% of the population is not haredi and has special needs. That is the right thing to do – to appoint a Zionist rabbi alongside a charedi rabbi.”

Barkat was one of a list of speakers that included MK Nachman Shai (Kadima), Chairman of Tzohar Rabbis Rafi Freuerstein, Rector of Sha’arei Mishpat College Dr. Aviad Ha’cohen, and Chairman of Panim L’Hitchadshut Yehudit Meir Yoffe. The evening was organized by Ne’emanei Torah Ve’Avodah, an organization of moderate Orthodox youths.

Barkat has a great deal of influence over the election of the chief rabbis of Yerushalayim – one Sephardi and one Ashkenazi. But he will need the support of Shas’s Religious Affairs Minister Ya’acov Margi – who also has extensive influence over the election process – and Shas’s four representatives in the municipality.

Chacham Ovadia Yosef has already called to support his son Rav Yitzchak as the Sephardi candidate for chief rabbi, according to Eli Simhayov, one of Shas’s representatives in the municipality.

Rav Yosef’s unequivocal support for his son – which automatically results in the enlistment of Shas’s vast network of political clout – makes it highly unlikely that any other Sephardi candidate will be chosen as chief Sephardi rabbi of Yerushalayim.

The real competition will be for the Ashkenazi slot. Religious Zionists will be pitted against the charedi Ashkenazi community.

Reb Yitzchak Pindruss, a representative of the Degal Hatorah Party in the municipality said in response to Barkat’s announcement that he did not understand what Barkat meant by “Zionist.”

“I am a Zionist too, as far as I am concerned,” said Rabbi Pindruss. “What they want is someone with a crocheted kippa. But we are going to fight it.”

In an attempt to exploit the vagueness of the term “Zionist,” charedi politicians pointed to vaunted rabbonim such as Harav Yitzchok Grossman, Chief Rabbi of Migdal Ha’emek, who was honored with the lighting of the first torch during Israel’s 60th Independence Day celebrations.

Harav Grossman has been unbelievably successful in religious outreach with secular youths in Migdal Ha’emek.

However, Barkat has made it clear that he wants a rabbi who served in the army and raises his children to serve in the army.

Rachel Azariya, a member of the Yerushalayim Municipality who organized the evening rally, said that another criterion for being considered “Zionist” is seeing the creation of the Jewish state as an event with religious significance.

“A Zionist rabbi recites the Hallel prayer on Independence Day,” said Azariya, who added that the ideal Zionist rabbi should also be moderate in his view regarding gender issues and relations with Arabs.

She said that Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, Head of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Yerushalayim, was passed over due to his extreme views. Rabbi Shapira called on IDF soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate Jewish homes during the Gaza Disengagement.

Rabbi Yosef Carmel, Director of the Eretz Chemda Institute, which trains religious Zionist Rabbinical Judges, is a leading Barkat candidate for chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Yerushalayim.

Azariya said that the present campaign to appoint a Zionist chief rabbi to Yerushalayim, if successful, will mark a significant turning point in charedi control over Israel’s rabbinate.

“We need a moderate voice in the rabbinate that will contrast the extreme views expressed recently on issues such as conversions and the Sabbatical year,” said Azariya.

A special panel of three senior rabbis will appoint the Zionist rabbinic candidate: Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan Yaakov Ariel, Head of the Gush Etzion Yeshiva Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein and Head of the Or Etzion Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Druckman.

Attorney Mordechai Eisenberg, Head of the Movement for Fairness in Government, a watchdog group that specializes in Religion-State issues, said that it was “outrageous” that the Sephardi candidate had already been decided in a way that bypassed free, open elections.

{Yair Israel/JPost Report}


  1. Let’s face it. You always needed to be a zionist to be a chief rabbi. Wasn’t Rav Kook? Nothing much has changed. The ones who should be ashamed of themselves are the so called frummer who is playing at being naive.

    Even the so called frummer who light candles at independence celebrations are no better than the zionist reshoim.

    I think they should take an Arab chief rabbi. After all, they are the 2nd largest group in Jerusalem after the frummer. Also, they wouldn’t tell IDF soldiers not to evacuate, would support heter mechira and would be nice and liberal on conversions. That they’re not Jewish? Don’t forget, we’re talking about a democracy here, so don’t be extreme! And there’s no reason why he can’t sit at the next kosel ceremony with nir and velvi. Oh, and one more thing, he won’t make shabbos parking problems.

    The only problem is halel on yom hoatzomes. And the army. Still, it’s a start and you can’t have everything.

    Seriously though, who cares? No one listens to a rav metam anyway.

    The bisha is for the “chareidi” rabbis (sic) who’ll be jobless next year. And won’t be able to light any candles at the 61th party. Never mind. They can make a small gathering at the kosel.

    Rachmone litzon. Heaven save us from these people