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Ombudsman calls to remove chief Sephardi rabbi from religious court

The ombudsman of the Israeli judiciary is again calling for the possible removal of Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef from the Great Rabbinical Court of Appeals in Jerusalem.

Former Supreme Court justice Uri Shoham says that this is due to Yosef’s organization of a Rabbinate conference against reforms being pushed by the government that will remove an Orthodox monopoly on Kashrut certification and religious conversions, following a complaint from the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism.

Shoham says the conference, which included rabbis from the state-run Rabbinate, as well as municipal rabbis and rabbinical judges, was in contravention of ethical guidelines that prohibit public servants from intervening in sensitive partisan issues.

In October 2020, Shoham asked the Selection Committee for Rabbinical Judges to consider removing Yosef over controversial comments he made about women, Reform Judaism and the High Court of Justice, also following a complaint from the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism.

Israeli Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (center) writes part of a Torah scroll at the Jewish community center in Dubai, on December 19, 2020. (Courtesy of the Dubai Jewish Community Center/via JTA)

Yosef is the son of the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the former spiritual leader of the Shas political party, which had vowed to protect Yosef last year, but is now in the Knesset opposition.

Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana, who was criticized at the conference, nonetheless backs Yosef’s right to speak freely.

Other religious and right-wing politicians are also speaking out against Shoham and in defense of Yosef.

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