The chief rabbi of Israel’s Ethiopian community has reportedly been fired from the position over his participation in a campaign over the Chief Rabbinate’s alleged racial discrimination against Jews of Ethiopian descent.
Rabbi Yosef Hadane’s contract will not be renewed at the end July. Senior officials in the Religious Affairs Ministry said the decision came in response to criticism Hadane had expressed against the rabbinate over the marriage registration woes of Ethiopian couples in the central city of Petah Tikva, Army Radio reported Monday.
The timing is ostensibly connected to Hadane reaching the retirement age of 67. Other rabbis, however, have been automatically granted an extension when they reach 67, with many municipal rabbis employed by the Religious Affairs Ministry serving into their 80s and beyond.
Tzohar, a group dedicated to bridging gaps between Jews in Israel and offering a more liberal Orthodox alternative to the rabbinate, said it was “deeply disturbed” by the decision to not extend Hadane’s contract.
“Seemingly his only transgression was his brave decision to stand in defense of Ethiopian Jews who had been denied the right to marry according to halacha by the Petach Tikva rabbinate,” the group said in a statement.
“It is inconceivable that a rabbi should be deposed by political and bureaucratic figures and Tzohar therefore respectfully urges the Ministry to reconsider this decision, which stands in opposition to basic ethics and Jewish values,” the statement added.
Ethiopian Israelis in Petah Tikva allege that they are regularly denied marriage licenses by the city’s rabbinate, whose employees question their Jewishness.
Under the auspices of the city’s Sephardic chief rabbi Binyamin Atias, members of Petah Tikva’s 10,000-strong Ethiopian community say, the rabbinical authority routinely demands that they submit paperwork proving their conversion, produce assurances from a rabbi that they are practicing Orthodox Jews, and investigate the couple’s backgrounds before ultimately turning them away.
While Ethiopian Jewish immigrants from the Beta Israel community are recognized as fully Jewish and did not need to undergo conversion upon arriving in Israel, immigrants from Ethiopia belonging to the Falash Mura community, which converted from Judaism to Christianity in the 19th century, are required to undergo Orthodox conversion after immigrating.
In 2014, Ethiopian Israelis in Petah Tikva leveled similar complaints of discrimination against the city’s rabbinate and Attias.
Tamar Pileggi contributed to this report.