Fighting Racism in Israel
The position of Chief Rabbi in Israel is not ceremonial. The State recognizes the Chief Rabbis as the top halakhic authorities for the Jewish people in Israel. At any given time, there are two Chief Rabbis - one Ashkenazi and one Sephardic. Chief rabbis are elected for 10-year terms and we are about to get two new ones.
Many think the front-runner to replace Rav Shlomo Amar as the Sephardic Chief Rabbi is Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, who is currently the Chief Rabbi of Safed. You might remember the thousands of emails we sent to Magen David Adom trying to remove this man from their committee for religious practice. The reason for our deep disapproval of Rav Eliyahu is that, for years, he has been using his position in Safed to discriminate against Israel’s non-Jewish minority.
As the chief Rabbi of Safed, Rav Eliyahu operated a hotline for residents to call and complain against neighbors who were going to rent their apartments to Arabs. Rav Eliyahu would then call himself and try and convince the offender not to take Arab tenants. If these efforts failed, he would excommunicate them. Click here to read a list of Rav Eliyahu's statements.
With racist incidents on the rise in Israel, appointing a Rabbi who incites and promotes racism is too dangerous to ignore. If we cannot do away with the whole institution of Chief Rabbi, we at least need to stop this man from assuming the post.
IRAC has been using every tool at its disposal to raise awareness about how dangerous it would be at home, and to Israel’s image abroad, if this man is raised to such an influential position. Rav Eliyahu’s statements about minorities might win him cheers with some of his disciples, but using racism and xenophobia as political tools hurts all Israelis.
We need to make it clear that Rav Shmuel Eliyahu is the wrong man for the job. We are asking our supporters to email some of the major Israeli missions around the world. Use our system to email five different Israeli embassies at once.
If we are successful in blocking Rav Shmuel Eliyahu’s appointment, it will send a clear message to rabbis who use hate and bigotry to win applause. They will learn that this tactic is a career-killing move.
Anat Hoffman is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center.