Rabbi David Malka, the director-general of the rabbinical courts in Israel, will end his four-year term in office in about a month, and according to Makor Rishon on Friday, Minister of Religious services Matan Kahana (Yamina) has interviewed five candidates for the position, and for the first time is considering appointing a woman (מחצית מהמועמדים למנכ”לות בתי הדין הרבניים – נשים).
According to the report, the candidates include three women: Deputy Education Director of the Bnei Akiva yeshivot Reut Giat; Rabbinic Advocate Osnat Sharon from Beit El; and rabbinic Advocate
Batsheva Sherman-Shani, who has gained a reputation as a staunch feminist. The remaining two candidates are former Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan; and Rabbi Meir Kahana, Head of the Rabbinical Court in Ashkelon.
Minister Kahana intends to convene the Judiciary Selection Committee as soon as possible to approve the appointment of his preferred candidate, and so far, according to Makor Rishon, the two front runners are Giat and Rabbi Ben-Dahan. The latter managed the rabbinical courts for 17 years and has recently been elected commissioner of Jerusalem’s Religious Council. The former was known as a feisty rabbinic advocate before moving on to her current job and has been affiliated with former Education Minister Shai Piron (Yesh Atid).
The director-general of the rabbinical courts is entrusted with managing the 12 regional rabbinical courts as well as the Grand Rabbinical Court of Appeals in Jerusalem, with some 300 employees and 110 judges, on an annual budget of roughly NIS 200 million ($62 million). Among other things, the director-general is responsible for updating the salary and retirement procedures of veteran judges, and overseeing the exams and certification of rabbinical advocates.
But the most crucial function of the next director-general will be to coordinate the Judiciary Selection Committee and absorb a large group of new rabbinical judges, some of whom will fill newly added posts in the regional courts and the Grand Rabbinical Court, after decades in which the number of rabbinical judges has remained stagnant. If you wish to see a revolution in the way Israel’s rabbinical courts conduct their business – this appointment will determine just how big the revolution is going to be.
Rabbinical courts in Israel are empowered to deal mainly with divorces, wills, and inheritances – in other words, the real stuff. If Minister Kahana succeeds in moving more modern-Orthodox judges into the system, while naturally moving out the aging Haredi ones, you’ll get your revolution.