Chief Rabbinate 'Fighting for its Very Survival'

At the grave of Israel's first Chief Rabbi, Sephardic Chief Rabbi urges Opposition leader to 'follow in his grandfather's footsteps.'

Ari Soffer ,

Yitzhak Herzog and Rabbi Yosef at Rabbi Herzog's grave
Yitzhak Herzog and Rabbi Yosef at Rabbi Herzog's grave
Chief Rabbi's Office

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef joined Leader of the Opposition Yitzhak Herzog at the grave of the Labor head's grandfather, former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, for a memorial service marking the anniversary of his death.

Herzog recited the traditional "Kaddish" prayer at the ceremony, which took place Sunday morning at Jerusalem's Sanhedria cemetery.

Speaking at the memorial service, Rabbi Yosef recounted Rabbi Herzog's immense efforts to maintain and strengthen the Chief Rabbinate, which he saw as one of the most fundamental cornerstones of the State of Israel.

He also told of how his father, former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, had the "privilege" of working with Rabbi Herzog on several occasions.

In his concluding remarks, the Chief Rabbi urged the Opposition leader to continue in the footsteps of his grandfather and support the Chief Rabbinate against concerted attempts to undermine it, saying the rabbinate was currently "fighting for its very survival."

Rabbi Yosef then invited Herzog to join him at the grave of his own father, where the two recited tehillim (psalms).

Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog was Israel's first Chief Rabbi, having served in the position under the British Mandate prior to the establishment of the State of Israel.

Born in 1888 in Poland, he moved to the UK with his family at the age of ten, where he excelled as an academic and Torah prodigy. 

He famously received a doctorate from the University of London on the topic of the ancient blue tekhelet dye; his extensive research enabled the rediscovery of the Biblical dye after being lost for centuries.

Prior to serving as Chief Rabbi of Israel, he was appointed as Chief Rabbi of Ireland, where he became known as the "Sinn Fein Rabbi" for his support of the cause of Irish independence.

He left for the British Mandate of Palestine in 1936 to succeed Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook as Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel - a position he himself served in until his own passing in 1959.

Aside from his prominent positions, Rabbi Herzog was widely recognized as a leading Torah authority, authoring several important works. One year before his death he was awarded the Israel Prize in Rabbinic Literature.