It has been a rocky start for Rabbi David Lau, the new Ashkenazi chief rabbi.
A week after he found himself embroiled in controversy for using a derogatory term for black people, Lau on Sunday faced accusations that he cheated on his test to enter the rabbinate 20 years ago.
Lau vehemently denied the allegations.
Only days before the July 24 Chief Rabbinate elections, a former senior official in the rabbinate’s test oversight body signed an affidavit stating that Lau attempted to cheat on an ordination exam in 1993, Channel 2 reported.
Lau, formerly the chief rabbi of the religiously diverse city of Modiin, was elected for a 10-year term as Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi, beating out the more liberal David Stav and other contenders in an unprecedentedly bitter contest.
According to the accusations, the test’s proctor, Rabbi Uzi Levi, noticed that Lau had papers with questions and answers from previous exams written out.
“Rabbi Lau prepared, ahead of time, questions and answers on the subject he was being tested on in order to use it as an aid during the exam — something that is strictly prohibited — and it was clear to all the examinees that it was forbidden to bring any reference material into the exam,” the affidavit stated.
Levi confiscated the pages and gave them to Rabbi Dov Lior, the chairman of the examination committee. Lior examined the material and decided to disqualify Lau from that year’s test.
Lior, the controversial chief rabbi of the Hebron-area settlement of Kiryat Arba, is affiliated with the hard-right Tekumah party, which merged with Jewish Home before the recent elections. He supported Rabbi Yaakov Shapira over Lau in the July rabbinate elections.
Over the years, Lior has been one of the most outspoken religious leaders supporting the Jewish claim to the entire Land of Israel.
“He was caught copying or transmitting material…” recalled Lior in an interview with Channel 2. “I remember this story. He brought in forbidden material.”
Lior later clarified that he had received the incriminating documents, and was told by someone he trusts that they came from Lau, but he never saw any forms with Lau’s name on them.
Channel 2 received the affidavit on the eve of the election, but decided to wait to publicize it in order to verify the claims, reporter Amit Segal said.
Ram Caspi, Lau’s attorney, said in a statement: “This is a perverse attempt to harm and attack the rabbi using invalid, harmful claims. The rabbi was never disqualified on any Chief Rabbinate test. This claim has no basis.”
Lau passed the test in 1994, and received his ordination.