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Approved: Bill for One Chief Rabbi in Israel

Ministerial Committee for Legislation approves bill unifying Chief Rabbinate. Bennett: 'This will unite the Jewish people.'
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 1/19/2014, 4:05 PM

R' Yitzhak Yosef, left, and R' David Baruch Lau, right, in Jerusalem
R' Yitzhak Yosef, left, and R' David Baruch Lau, right, in Jerusalem
Flash90

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill to unify the post of Chief Rabbi Sunday, combining both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities under one Rabbinic leader. 

If approved, the bill would also separate the Chief Rabbinate from the Rabbinical court system. Currently, one Chief Rabbi serves as the President of the Court, whereas the other serves as Vice President. The bill would have existing rabbinical judges (dayanim) from the Great Rabbinical Court appointed as President and Vice President, similarly to the way civilian Supreme Court judges are selected to head the Supreme Court.

The bill comes after 14 new members of the Chief Rabbinate Council were sworn in to their positions in late October amid calls from all sides for greater unity among the Jewish people, and the important role of the Chief Rabbinate in that regard.

Under those lines, the bill was proposed via the collaboration of two religiously and politically opposed ministers: Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (HaTnua) and Economics Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home). 

On Sunday, Bennett welcomed the move. 

"One Rabbi for one people," Bennett noted. "As I promised the public when I ascended to my post a year and a half ago, the ministerial legislative committee has approved the proposal of Chief Rabbi of Israel."

"I am convinced that the decision will contribute to strengthening public confidence in the Chief Rabbinate of Israel," Bennett continued, "against those people who are trying to weaken the Jewish identity of the Jewish state." 

The bill, if passed, would only take effect when the current Chief Rabbis end their term, in about ten years. 

The bill will have a lasting impact on world Jewry as well. Not only have the Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities effectively been combined in the legal sense in Israel -- a treaty signed by American and European Rabbis in November declared the Rabbinate the leading authority of the Jewish world. Therefore, its unification will affect all Jewish communities.