Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Haredim lose majority on Rabbinate Council, Sephardim Gain

This is significant news for Israel. The Chief Rabbinate Council choses the Chief Rabbi, and the votes of the religious nationalists and the sephardic rabbis are gaining momentum. This is very important. The fact that Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, the head of a nationalist Zionist Yeshiva was elected the head of the council is very good news for the nationalist cam (and in my humble opinion, good for Judaism as a whole).

The greatest upset of the day was getting Ovadia Yosef's son on the council. He was, according to the Haredim, "lenient" in his ruling regarding the shmita year, allowing a heter for sale of produce so that farmers wouldn't go out of business. The heter has been offered since the earliest days of Israel, and the banning of the heter by the Haredim was a new thing. Because Avraham Yosef didn't go along with the Haredi ban on the heter, he was shunned, and the Haredim tried to keep him off the council. The Haredim also allowed this issue to destroy the block voting in the Knesset that would have prevented Livni from taking over. In the end, they lost the battle AND they lost the war.

Thank G-d.

Religion is not supposed to be something set aside for religious extremists who don't regard the rest of the Jewish people as "Jewish enough" to be considered am Yisrael. They crazy zealotry the Haredim have shown in the past few years has led to the overturning of thousands upon thousands of conversions, and countless problems with marriages, burials, and divorces.

I am hoping that this election will begin the process of healing the religious life of the country. It is fine if the Haredim want to be more holy than the rest of us, but they shouldn't try to take over the whole religion. This is a religion of living, breathing regular people given to us by G-d. It is our birthright, not the sole possession of one small faction of people who think they know what G-d would want.

Merkaz HaRav Dean Elected to Chief Rabbinate Council

( Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, who took over the helm of Merkaz HaRav upon the death of his father last year, tops the list of Ashkenazi rabbis on the newly-elected council.

Heading the list of Sephardic rabbis is Rabbi Shimon Elituv, the Rabbi of the Binyamin Regional Council.

The council comprises the two Chief Rabbis of Israel, the Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Be'er Sheva (even though Be'er Sheva is no longer Israel's fourth-largest city), and ten rabbis - five Sephardic, five Ashkenazi - who are chosen every five years.

Of the 150 members on the electoral body, including rabbis, rabbinical court judges and public figures from around the country, an impressive 96% showed up to actually vote. Of these, 117 voted for Rabbi Elituv.

Rabbi Elituv is new to the Sephardic list, as is Rabbi Avrahan Yosef, son of former Chief Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, who received 102 votes. They join Kiryat Ono's Chief Rabbi Ratzon Arusi, the head of the Yemenite Jewry in Israel, co-founder of a Jewish Law court system that deals with monetary cases, and a Ph.D. in law with experience as a lecturer in Tel Aviv and Bar Ilan Universities; Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu of Tzfat, son of former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu; and Rabbi Yitzchak Peretz of Raanana.

Rabbi Shapira, with 80 votes, is the son of the late Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira. He is new to the Ashkenazi list, as is Rabbi Yaakov Roja, the rabbi of the Zaka medical emergency volunteer organization. They join Rabbi Yitzchak David Grossman of Migdal HaEmek, Rabbi Yosef Gliksberg of Givatayim, and Rabbi Yitzchak Ralbag of Jerusalem.

Long-standing member Rabbi Simcha HaCohen Kook of Rehovot, a grand-nephew of the saintly Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, was not chosen for another term.

In addition to Rabbis Shapira and Eliyahu, as well as others who are sympathetic to the cause, the religious-Zionist camp had hoped to have either Rabbi Tzephania Drori of Kiryat Shmonah or Rabbi David Stav of Shoham and the Tzohar Rabbis Organization elected to the Council.

MK Nissan Slomiansky (National Religious Party) told Arutz-7's Shlomo Piotrokovsky why the elections are important: "The Chief Rabbinate determines and decides many important public issues, such as we saw in the past year: conversion, Shemittah, etc. It is very important that religious-Zionism, which recognizes the State and looks for ways to be lenient within the framework of Jewish Law, be represented on the Rabbinate Council."

Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger has described the Council as a "body with great potential to determine the course of religious-secular co-existence." When he was first elected to the Council six years ago, he said, "The Council is like a Rabbinical government, and we are like ministers, and we have tremendous responsibility," for example, in "bridging the gaps in relations between religious, hareidi, and secular."

The Council will also be instrumental in choosing the country's next Chief Rabbis.

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