Even in the face of its waning influence, the Israeli Chief Rabbinate seems committed to upholding its discriminatory practices. The latest show of indifference involves Rabbi Yosef Hadane, Chief Rabbi of the Ethiopian-Israeli community, who was denied an extension (read: fired) by the Religious Services Ministry of his post, apparently in retaliation for his involvement in protesting the Rabbinate’s regular denial of marriage licenses to Ethiopian Israelis in Petah Tikva. Reported The Jerusalem Post:
Members of the Ethiopian community have complained on several occasions in the last three years, particularly regarding the Petah Tikva rabbinate, that they have been unable to register for marriage, because several local rabbinates have refused to accept their conversions through the state conversion authority.
Although Ethiopian immigrants from the Beta Israel community are recognized as fully Jewish and do not need to undergo conversion, immigrants belonging to the Falash Mura community, which converted in the 19th century from Judaism to Christianity, are required to undergo a streamlined conversion process by the state after immigrating.
Hadane’s contract ends in July, and the official reason for not renewing his contract is that Hadane has reached the retirement age of 67. However, many rabbis are automatically granted extensions upon reaching said retirement age, many of whom remain serving well into their 80s.
A similar tactic was employed by the Rabbinate last year concerning the renewal of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin as Chief Rabbi of Efrat, seemingly linked to Riskin’s stance on conversion and his apparent plan to establish a court for conversion together with other local community rabbis. Riskin’s term was eventually (albeit reluctantly) renewed with a five-year contract, with the Council of the Chief Rabbinate subsequently appointing a committee to draft changes in the regulations regarding assessment of a term extension request.
Strongarming aside, Hadane’s censure for expressing criticism against the Rabbiniate stings when considering that the Rabbinate is headed by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, who, one week into his term, used a racial slur for blacks.
The very fact that a rabbi’s tenure is being considered for termination by the Chief Rabbinate for protesting racial discrimination is a troubling one. And now, it appears that the Religious Services Ministry has changed course, desiring to extend his tenure in an apparent response to the outrage, reported Haaretz.
In any case, perhaps it’s the Rabbinate and the Religious Services Ministry which should be placed under assessment.
MaNishtana is the pseudonym of Shais Rishon, an Orthodox African-American Jewish writer, speaker, rabbi, and author of Thoughts From A Unicorn. His latest book is Ariel Samson, Freelance Rabbi.