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Unified chief rabbi law gathers momentum

Proposal by Hatnua and Jewish Home parties would also see chief rabbi relinquish post of rabbinical court president

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau (L) and Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef attend a meeting of the Rabbinate Council in Jerusalem on November 04, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)
Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau (L) and Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef attend a meeting of the Rabbinate Council in Jerusalem on November 04, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)

A bill to combine the separate positions of Sephardic and Ashkenazi chief rabbis into one role was distributed in the Knesset on Monday in preparation for its passage through the legislative process.

The Chief Rabbi Law will also separate the presidency of the Rabbinic Courts from the position of chief rabbi. Instead of the chief rabbi also serving as president of the court, as is currently the case, a candidate will be selected from among the serving court administrators.

The change in law is being sponsored by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua), Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) and Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Eli Ben Dahan (Jewish Home).

“In Israel there is one president, one prime minister, one president of the Supreme Court, one chief of staff for the army — and the time has come to have one rabbi for one people,” Livni said, cited in a Ynet news report.

“This is an important step that symbolizes the unity of the people,” Bennett added. “Appointing one chief rabbi is one of the things where the only question is why wasn’t it done sooner.”

Currently there are two chief rabbis appointed, one Sephardic and one Ashkenazi. The current Sephardic and Ashkenazi chief rabbis, who were appointed earlier this year, are Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau. The split in the posts came about due to the difference in religious customs and culture between the European-descended Ashkenazi Jews and the more Middle Eastern Sephardic Jews.

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