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Jun 18, 2013

Ashkenazi or Sephardi descent of candidate does not matter for the Chief Rabbi position

Thinking out of the box.

There is no law that defines who is or what makes someone Sephardi or Ashkenazi. And, there is no law that limits the position of either Chief Rabbi or any of the City Rabbi positions to specifically Sephardim or Ashkenazim. It does not say anywhere that only a Sephardi can run for the Sephardic Chief Rabbi position (or chief rabbi of a city) or that only an Ashkenazi can run for the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi position (or chief rabbi of a city).

It seems to be self-understood that only an Ashkenazi would run for the Ashkenazi position, and only a Sephardi would run for the Sephardi position, but there is no technical legal limitation.

In what is a head-scratching move, Rav Yehuda Shlush, the son of the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Netanya, has announced his candidacy for the newly available position of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Netanya.

Rav Shlush is not the only Ashkenazi candidate - he is pitting himself against two others, including one of the sons (Rav Moshe Chaim Lau) of Rav Yisrael Meir Lau, former Chief Rabbi of Israel and also the last person to hold the position of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Netanya, a position he left 26 years ago. Rav Shlush isn't the only candidate, but he is the only candidate who is not Ashkenazi. Rav Shlush even justifies his candidacy by saying he learned in Ashkenazi yeshivot and knows all the customs and issues of Ashkenazi Jewry, and so is fitting for the position.

It's a bit confounding that this is possible, and perhaps it is another reason, or example, of how splitting the Chief Rabbi position to two is superfluous, and we can really make do with just one Chief Rabbi serving the needs of all the citizens no matter the racial background.

Perhaps Rav Shlush's thinking out of the box can give some direction to the candidates in the nasty fight for Chief Rabbi of Israel. Let Rav Yosef's son be one chief rabbi, and let Aryeh Deri's brother be the second chief rabbi - and they can decide between themselves which will be sephardi and which ashkenazi. Or, Rav Stav and Rav Lau can be the two chief rabbis, again working out between themselves which is sephardi and which is ashkenazi.

this solution might make the selection process easier, or maybe it just makes the competition tighter - instead of 4-5 candidates for each of two positions, now there would be 8 or 10 candidates for both of 2 positions.

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  1. This video may shed some light on the whole "Ashkenazy-Sepharadi-etc." issue.

  2. According to Wikipedia, the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi or Argentina is Rabbi Shlomo Ben Hamu who is Sfardi (although I don't have any further information as to how accurate this is)


  3. I went to yeshiva with his son. I wasnt aware he is considered the ashkenazi chief rabbi. I just thought chief rabbi. Interestingly, his wife is from a yekkish family. one more interesting but irrelevant point, his son in law is the famous rav pinto

  4. This issue raises ab interesting question: If an Ashkenazi can be a Sfardi Chief Rabbi and vice-versa, why are both a Sfardi and and Ashkenazi rabbi needed in any single jurisdiction?


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