Another Twist on the Chief Rabbinate Election


craThe pressure is on for Bayit Yehudi party leaders as a growing number of dati leumi rabbonim have come out expressing opposition to the so-called Stern Bill, which seeks to increase the voter body for chief rabbis from 150 to 200. Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett favors the bill, which would add 50 voters, voters representing the dati leumi community, many being women. This Bennett understands would significantly dilute Shas’ voting power in the race for chief rabbis. At present, Shas controls the voting body.

However, another portion of the Stern Bill somewhat complicates the race. Stern wishes to raise the bar for candidates for chief rabbi. To date, a rav certified as a rav of a city or a dayan may become a candidate even if he is not serving in either capacity at the time he announces his candidacy. If the Stern Bill is voted into law the criteria will change, limiting candidacy to one serving as the rav of a city and is certified as a dayan or serving as a dayan and is a certified dayan. There is a clause which says one does not have to serve as the rav of the city but serving as the rav of a local municipality is sufficient, tailoring the bill to the candidacy of Rabbi David Stav, who serves as the rabbi of Shoham. Shoham is officially a local municipality, not a city. Rabbi Stav is a certified dayan.

If the Stern Bill passes into law, many candidates will be disqualified, including Merkaz HaRav Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yaakov Shapira Shlita, who is not certified as a dayan and not serving as a chief rabbi of a city/local municipality; Modi’in Chief Rabbi David Lau Shlita, who is not certified as a dayan. This would leave two candidates, Rabbi Stav and Rabbi Eliezer Igra, with the latter being a dayan on the Chief Rabbinate Supreme Court and therefore automatically certified to serve as a chief rabbi of a city.

Now let’s turn to the Sephardi chief rabbi race. If the Stern Bill is passed the list of seven dati leumi candidates is significantly curtailed. Leading candidates would be Kiryat Motzkin Chief Rabbi Ratzon Arussi Shlita and Tzfas Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu Shlita. Unfortunately, both are not certified as dayanim so they would be disqualified. The only dati leumi rav on the list of seven qualified is Rabbi Tzion Elgarbili Shlita, who is unknown to most. The rav serves as a dayan on the Chief Rabbinate Supreme Court.

If we look at the candidates outside the dati leumi camp Holon Chief Rabbi Avraham Yosef Shlita was mentioned, but he too is not certified as a dayan. Actually, the only name mentioned to date qualifying in the Amar Bill does not pass is Beersheva Chief Rabbi Yehudi Deri Shlita, who is serving as a chief rabbi, a certified dayan, and av beis din of the area rabbinical courts. He is also a brother to Shas leader Aryeh Deri.

Even with the surprised announcement of Monday, 4 Sivan 5773 that Maran HaGaon HaRav Ovadia Yosef Shlita signed the agreement with Bayit Yehudi, it remains to be seen if Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett will agree to sign for the Gadol Hador’s signature is conditional. Rav Ovadia demands that Bennett oppose the Stern Bill. Bennett is a staunch supporter of the bill, for he more than many wishes to bring women into the voting body and dilute Shas’ voting power. However, if he agrees to turn his back on Stern he will also be accused of succumbing to ‘chareidi blackmail’ and joining the old boys’ network, dealing with Shas, not to mention turning his back on political ally Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and the new breed of tomorrow’s Israeli politician.

If however he decides to decline Rav Ovadia’s offer and go with the Stern Bill, he turns his back on most of the rabbonim shlita in the dati leumi community, who back Rav Ariel’s candidacy. This will also lead to much controversy in the dati leumi camp since it appears the only candidate for Ashkenazi chief rabbi who would rise above machlokes is Rav Ariel.

Therefore, if the Amar Bill fails and the Stern Bill passes, which depends on Bayit Yehudi, the primary candidates for the next chief rabbis of Israel may be Rabbi David Stav and Rabbi Yehuda Deri. Rabbi Amar will not be permitted to serve a second term and Rabbi Ariel will be disqualified for being over 70-years-old.

Following a Monday afternoon faction meeting, Labor Party officials announce they will join the Yesh Atid and The Movement parties in support of Rabbi David Stav’s candidacy as well as voting in favor of the Stern Bill.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)


  1. This will also lead to much controversy in the dati leumi camp since it appears the only candidate for Ashkenazi chief rabbi who would rise above machlokes is Rav Ariel


  2. First, harav Arussi is the rav of Kiryat Ono, not of Kiryat Motzkin. As Kiryat Ono is a city, he would be qualified under the Stern bill.

    Second, the Stern bill is just a draft which needs to go through committee and be voted through the Knesset. Plenty of opportunity, then, to make adjustments regarding qualifications.