Photo Credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90
Minister of Religious Services Matan Kahana visited Neve Shmuel Yeshiva in Efrat, December 7, 2021.

This coming Sunday, the Ministerial Legislation Committee will debate a radical bill submitted by MK Moshe Tur-Paz (Yesh Atid) that changes the constituent components of the body that elects Israel’s Chief Rabbis, Kipa reported Wednesday night (מתן כהנא מקדם חוק ממשלתי לשינוי המערך הבוחר של הרבנות הראשית). According to Kipa, tense negotiations were held this past week between Minister of Religious Services Matan Kahana (Yamina), and MK Tur-Paz, following which Kahana intends to submit an identical bill to be consolidated and submitted to the Knesset.

Once the bill passes in its first reading, it will be set aside until the next Knesset session, because Minister Kahana is going to be engaged in pushing the conversions reform this session.


The explanatory notes that accompany Tur-Paz’s bill say: “The Chief Rabbinate is headed by the two Chief Rabbis of Israel and the Chief Rabbinical Council of Israel, which determines the Chief Rabbinate’s policy on many issues concerning Jewish religious services. The diminishing status of the Chief Rabbinate is closely related to the way they are appointed.”

“In the current legal situation, the Chief Rabbis and the Chief Rabbinical Council do not represent the entire Jewish public in Israel,” the bill’s notes continue. “The Electoral Assembly, whose aim is to ensure the representation of the general public, consists mainly of representatives of the Chief Rabbinate so that in practice, it is a public body that elects itself by its own representatives while the public’s voice in the electoral process is insignificant.”

“In addition,” Tur-Paz’s notes argue, “the existing law does not have any mechanism that guarantees significant representation for women in the Constituent Assembly, and there are no representatives of the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria in the Electoral Assembly, so there is no representation for the settlement enterprise.”

Considering that the half-million Jews living in the settlements constitute a major chunk of the Orthodox Jewish constituency in Israel, that’s huge discrimination. Of course, considering that women constitute at least half of all the Jews in Israel, that’s pretty big discrimination, too…

“Therefore, this bill seeks to amend the Chief Rabbinate Law so that the composition of the members of the Electoral Assembly will adequately reflect Israeli society,” Tur-Paz’s notes say. “Following this, it is proposed to expand the conditions of eligibility for being elected to the Chief Rabbinical Council, so that it can better reflect the Jewish public in Israel.”

Finally, the notes suggest that “in order to prevent a situation in which a Chief Rabbi is elected to the position and is required to serve in the sensitive and important position of the head of the Judicial Court of the Jewish Religion as President of the Great Rabbinical Court—without basic qualifications, this bill proposes to require, under the conditions of eligibility, that a candidate to be elected as Chief Rabbi is certified as a Dayan or presents a certificate of eligibility to serve as a Dayan.”

That last part is a tall order, designed to keep away the riffraff. Dayan is a judge in a halakhic court. The certification as Dayan is done by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. The process includes several written and oral exams that the applicant must pass before receiving the certification – they are usually spread over a few years – and in the end, he is officially accredited by the Chief Rabbinate.

In addition, the candidate must meet several threshold conditions, including ordination to the rabbinate (Yoreh Yoreh) by a city rabbi, a dayan, or a Torah institution recognized by the council. He must be married, divorced, or widowed (only those who are married or have been married are authorized to be dayanim). His lifestyle and character fit the status of a Dayan in Israel. He must provide written recommendations from two of his rabbis in yeshiva gedolah, and must have completed at least seven years of study in a yeshiva gedolah or a Kollel.

MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) responded to the report in Kippa: “Yesh Atid and Yamina are competing who is more reformist, destroys the rabbinate more, and they quarrel over the credit. They want to make a living over the ruins of the Chief Rabbinate. According to their demands, they themselves can be the next chief rabbis.”

Yes, that’s the point – assuming they qualify to be dayanim…

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