Elected officials in Efrat have come out in a strong position of support for the city’s mora d’asra, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin in light of efforts to compel him to step down by not renewing his control. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has signaled they will not renew Rabbi Riskin’s contract. The rav is 75-years-old.
The news of the rabbi’s imminent forced retirement has elicited anger over the rumored decision and support from MK (Yesh Atid) Dr. Aliza Lavie and Rabbi Dr. Yuval Sherlow, both of the opinion that the Chief Rabbinate Council has an agenda – seeking to oust Rabbi Riskin for his at times controversial position on giyur as well as his programs to place women in the forefront of Halacha along with men.
The Efrat Council came out unanimously in support of the rabbi and to permit him to continue serving as the city’s chief rabbi. The local council met on Monday night the eve of 8 Sivan, voting unanimously on extending the rabbi’s tenure.
The rabbi celebrated his 75th birthday a number of weeks ago. Efrat officials point out the rabbi’s age in no way prevents him from walking distances of up to 10 km (6 miles) on Shabbos as he continues his tradition of visiting the different neighborhoods and shuls on Shabbos and Yomtov. Efrat officials’ add the rabbi does not miss an opportunity to give a bracha to any bar mitzvah boy or a couple getting married, walking to any and all shuls to extend his personal greetings to them.
Efrat officials’ also point out that the city council represents 50% of the body that votes for the city’s rabbi and the head of the council has the authority to approve or reject any appointment. The council calls on the Chief Rabbinate of Israel Council to heavily weigh into the decision the desire of residents of the city, which has been the minhag throughout the generations.
Rabbi Amnon Bazak of Yeshivat Har Etzion, is calling on the Chief Rabbinate to apologize to Rabbi Riskin and immediately extend his tenure with another five-year contract. He used his Facebook page to express his feelings, that ousting the rabbi because of his position on giyur will ultimately compromise the integrity of the Chief Rabbinate.
Rabbi Bazak adds that a rabbi serving on the Chief Rabbinate Council without objections has been recommended for a criminal indictment by Israel Police for alleged bribery, extortion, breach of trust, and other crimes, adding a rabbi of a city is facing similar charges and while nothing is done to oust these rabbis there are efforts to remove Rabbi Riskin from his position. He states the actions of the Chief Rabbinate to oust Rabbi Riskin are contrary to Torah.
In an interview with Galei Yisrael Radio on Tuesday, 8 Sivan, Rabbi Riskin stated “I respect the Chief Rabbinate of Israel but it should be more pluralistic. I believe the Chief Rabbinate should be one that also accepts important opinions, halachic pluralism, for as long as it remains within the halachic consensus and to open the gates of giyur but it remains to be seen”.
He also stated “I am in favor of the institution of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. I think it is an important one but is must be a Chief Rabbinate of Israel that speaks to all of Am Yisrael and from a halachic standpoint — it must be willing to accept opinions that are not necessarily acceptable to the chareidim”.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)