update deskIsrael News

Chief Rabbinate elections delayed amid power struggle

The elections, originally scheduled for August, will now be held next April.

Israel's Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef speaks at a swearing-in ceremony for the Rabbinate Council at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on Oct. 24, 2018. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Israel's Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef speaks at a swearing-in ceremony for the Rabbinate Council at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on Oct. 24, 2018. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

The Knesset voted overnight Monday to postpone the elections for the country’s Chief Rabbinate, extending the tenure of the serving rabbis until next spring. The elections were originally scheduled for August.

The delay comes amid a tense race for the 10-year positions, and reports of back-room wheeling and dealing by Shas Party chairman Aryeh Deri to pave the way for his brother to receive the Sephardic Chief Rabbi position.

The bill proposing the postponement passed by a 52-29 vote.

Israeli Religious Services Minister Michael Malkieli had pushed for the delay, citing concerns that separate municipal voting in October could interfere with the rabbinical elections in which a council of 150 people—most of them rabbis affiliated with local offices of the rabbinate and their employees—select an Ashkenazi and a Sephardic chief rabbi of the country.

But officials indicate that a power struggle between two prominent candidates in the race for Sephardic Chief Rabbi is the real reason behind the delay.

Rabbi David Yosef, the son of the late Shas founder Ovadia Yosef and brother of incumbent Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, is competing against Beersheva Chief Rabbi Yehuda Deri, the brother of Shas chairman Aryeh Deri.

According to Israeli media reports, Deri would like to see his brother in the role, and is hoping that pushing off the elections will enable a compromise agreement whereby Yosef will be appointed as Jerusalem’s chief rabbi.

Israel’s minister for the development of the periphery, the Negev and the Galilee Yitzhak Wasserlauf has said that chief rabbis should be elected based on their qualifications, not their connections.

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