President Shimon Peres with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
Photo: Haim Zach
Photo: Meir Azulai
Businessman Nohi Dankner with Rabbi Yaakov Ifergan
Photo: Meir Azulai

61%: Public figures who seek rabbinical blessings are fawners

Israelis are non too excited about secular politicians and businessmen who consult rabbis, believing they are fawners. A Ynet-Gesher survey further found that while a significant number of people prefer the counsel of a close friend or relation, rabbis are still the most popular sources of advice, beating out even psychotherapists

Fawners, We're Fed Up: We are all familiar with presidential candidates, party leaders and businessmen who rush to pay their respects to the nation's rabbinical elite the day before a crucial deal or election is at hand. We all see the pictures on tomorrow's front page.


A survey commissioned by Ynet-Judaism and the Gesher Association shows that the public frowns upon the practice, with 61% saying that secular businessmen who consult rabbis are "kissing up to the religious and strictly Orthodox." That was the prevailing view in every sector - secular, observant, religious, and strictly Orthodox.


Secular respondents said they would rather consult a close family member on personal issues, the strictly Orthodox said they would consult a rabbi on that same problem. Conducted by the Mutagim Institute, the poll surveyed 500 interviewees who constitute a representative sample of the adult, Hebrew-speaking Jewish population of Israel.


When asked how they felt about secular politicians and businessmen who consulted rabbis, 61% said they viewed those figures as only trying to curry favor with the strictly Orthodox and religious publics.


A significantly lower 16% said they think the secular celebrities genuinely believe the rabbis posses supernatural powers and 14% said they felt the public figures are "humbled in the face of Creation." The remaining 9% said seculars seeking religious blessings act out of superstitious beliefs.


Similar results emerged when the data was split according to respondents' religious views, meaning that the religious and strictly Orthodox are also doubtful of seculars who visit rabbis.


The poll further inquired who respondents were mostly likely to turn to in the face of a personal or economic crisis - 53% of all respondents said that in an economic crisis they would seek the advice of a relative, 22% said a close friend, 18% said a professional and only 7% said they would consult a rabbi.


The broken-down results showed that the religious and strictly Orthodox are most likely to initially seek counsel from a family member (43% and 48% respectively) and only afterwards speak with a rabbi (23% and 31%).


In case of personal issues, family members still come first (52%), followed by close friends (32%). But the public still chose rabbis before the psychotherapists (9% and 7%).


However the further analyzed results showed observant respondents placed the therapist before the rabbi on their lists.


A majority, 55%, of the strictly Orthodox said they would consult a rabbi on personal matters. Only 3% of that same group said they were most likely to call a therapist.


Rabbinical roles through the ages

Shoshi Becker, director general of Gesher Educational Enterprises, said that the negative perception of secular public figures consulting rabbis indicates that rabbis are viewed as sources of authority and power capable of rallying the religious and strictly Orthodox publics for various causes.


She added, however, that while during the biblical era, kings would only go to war after consulting the Sanhedrin – nowadays rabbis are viewed as lacking the comprehensive political and military knowledge necessary to make such rulings.


"It would be best if the rabbis offered expansive reasoning to clarify their opinions, in a manner that respects all Israeli sectors. By doing so, they will be accepted by the wider public in Israel – not only as a means to apply pressure, but as influential leaders in a Jewish democratic nation."


פרסום ראשון: 08.18.07, 11:24
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