Rabbi A. Stern
Rabbi A. Stern Israel news photo
Religious-Zionist sources say that the Committee for Choosing the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem has "pulled a fast one," rendering it impossible to choose a Chief Rabbi, either Ashkenazi or Sephardi, from the religious-Zionist camp.
Deputy Mayor David Hadari, of the National Religious-National Union party in the city council, says that of the 24 members of the electoral council who represent synagogues, only five will be from Zionist synagogues and the others will be from hareidi-religious synagogues.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who is not religious but has promised to work for a Zionist Chief Rabbi, walked out of the meeting in anger -- as did another non-hareidi council member.
Hadari wrote a letter to the Minister for Religious Affairs, who is from the Shas Party, that he plans to take every action possible to stop this "grab." He demands that the religious-Zionist synagogues in the city be represented on the electoral council at a rate of at least 50%, if not more.
Hadari noted that it is the religious-Zionist public that chiefly uses the services provided by the Chief Rabbinate -- in kashrut certification, mivkvaot (ritual baths), eruvin (which enable carrying objects outside on the Sabbath), Shemittah, and more. It therefore follows that this public must have a say in choosing the Chief Rabbi himself, Hadari said.
"We will fight with all our might to make sure that at least one of the two new Chief Rabbis in Jerusalem comes from the religious-ZIonist camp," Hadari concluded.
A panel of Zionist rabbis chose Rabbi Aryeh Stern this past August as their agreed-upon nominee for the position of Chief Rabbi, so as to prevent more than one religious-Zionist rabbi from vying for the post.

Rabbi Stern

When he was chosen, Rabbi Stern explained to Israel National News that, if elected, his main challenge would be "to present a warm and loving rabbinate that is understanding of the public, and at the same time to provide both practical and spiritual leadership. For instance, the weak kashrut supervision in the city is a problem specifically for the religious-Zionist public, which wishes to be led by the Rabbinate and not by private hareidi rabbinical courts. This is something that must be improved.  At the same time, there must be a central rabbinic leadership, which I would hope to lead with the help of the many strong rabbinic forces in the city, such as the rabbis of Har Homa, Pisgat Ze'ev, Gilo, Ramot and other neighborhoods. We are in a generation of the Ingathering of the Exiles, and new winds are blowing, and we have to know which of them are acceptable, and to which we must say no."

Rabbi Stern, 65, married with seven children, studied in the Yishuv Yeshiva in Tel Aviv during his high school years, and later in Merkaz HaRav Kook. Together with Rabbi Yochanan Fried, he started – and heads until today – the Halakha Berurah Institute, where scholars trace the development of Jewish Law and connect it with the relevant sugyot (passages) of the Talmud. This, in accordance with a plan proposed by Rabbi A. I. Kook to publish the entire Talmud with the relevant Jewish Law rulings and how they relate to the 2,000-year-old rabbinic discussions.

Rabbi Stern headed the Yeshiva High School in Rehovot for a year, helped found the Merhavim Institute, has taught in several hesder yeshivot, and serves as rabbi of a Jerusalem congregation.

No Chief Rabbi Since 2003

Jerusalem has not had a Chief Rabbi since 2003, when Rabbi Shalom Mashash died in office after serving as the city's Chief Sephardic Rabbi for 25 years. Rabbi Yitzchak Kulitz was the city's Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi from 1983 until 2001; he resigned because of illness, and died the next year.