Bill to reform the Electoral Assembly of the Chief Rabbinate

Recent Chief Rabbis of Israel, whether Ashkenazi or Sephardic, have represented one particular type of Judaism: utlra-Orthodox. 

On June 19th, 2022, a bill was included on the agenda of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation which seeks to change the body which elects Chief Rabbis. The bill, known as the Chief Rabbinate Law (Amendment – Public representation in the Electoral Assembly), was proposed by Moshe (Kinley) Tur-Paz (Yesh Atid).

From the explanatory section of the bill:

The role of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel is to provide Jewish religious services, to be an official body representing the Jewish religion, and to facilitate a bond between the tradition of Israel and Israeli society. In order to fulfill that role, the Chief Rabbinate must be connected to all parts of Israeli society and loyally represent them. Throughout the years, Chief Rabbis have been elected who were religious authorities with a Zionist worldview and far-reaching responsibility for the public, who could make Jewish legal rulings in the spirit of statehood and address the challenges of Israeli society. In recent years, we have witnessed a trend of stringency and detachment, while favoring political considerations, in a way that harms the goals for which the Chief Rabbinate was established. Public faith in the Chief Rabbinate is at an unprecedented low, as polls show that approximately 80% of the public does not trust it.

Leading the Chief Rabbinate are two Chief Rabbis of Israel, and the Chief Rabbinate Council of Israel, which crafts the policy of the Chief Rabbinate regarding many issues of importance for Jewish religious services. The damage to the standing of the Chief Rabbinate is directly related to the way in which they are appointed. In the current legal situation, the Chief Rabbis and the Chief Rabbinate Council do not represent the entire Jewish public in Israel. The Electoral Assembly, which is meant to represent the entire public, is mostly composed of representatives of the Chief Rabbinate, so that in practice it is a public body that elects itself via its representatives, while the voice of the public in the electoral process is minimal. In addition, according to the current law, there is no mechanism to ensure significant representation of women in the Electoral Assembly, and representatives of communities in Judea and Samaria are not part of the Electoral Assembly, and thus there is no representation of the settlement enterprise. 

Therefore, this bill seems to fix the Chief Rabbinate Law, so that the members of the Electoral Assembly will properly reflect Israeli society. In addition, it proposes expanding the prerequisites for election to the Chief Rabbinate Council, so that it better reflects the Israeli Jewish public.

We will wait to see whether or not the bill is brought up for discussion in the Knesset plenum.