Photo: Motti Kimchi
Chief Rabbi Metzger
Photo: Motti Kimchi

Honest leadership needed

Op-ed: A corrupt boss does not warrant the closure of an institution as important as the Chief Rabbinate

Now that his tumultuous term is coming to a close, one thing is clear: Rabbi Yona Metzger fulfilled the goal of those who elected him by demolishing the Rabbinate's image and damaging the Zionist state's religious systems.


In 2003 the anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox rabbis put him in the chief rabbi's office for fear that the Rabbinate would fall into the hands of a religious-Zionist rabbi. The fact that he was not qualified for the job was not an obstacle – it was the reason he was picked.


The haredi scheme succeeded, but the Chief Rabbinate will not be shut down anytime soon; just as the Interior Ministry was not closed when Aryeh Deri was convicted of taking bribes and just as the State of Israel was not shut down when Olmert was indicted. Heck, the institution of the presidency was not canceled after Katsav was convicted of rape. A corrupt boss does not warrant the closure of an important institution.


The vast majority of Israel's citizens are traditional or religious Jews who want religious leadership. They want a rabbi to conduct their wedding ceremonies, oversee their divorces, supervise over the preparation of the food they eat and bury them when the time comes. The Rabbinate is not only a bureaucratic institution, it is also serves as a spiritual authority whose job goes well beyond cleaning mikvehs (ritual baths) and printing Ketubahs (marriage contract delineating the obligations of the husband to his wife).


The chief rabbis are responsible for guaranteeing that we will be able to marry each other for generations to come, as well as be buried beside our loved ones. Their job also allows religious Jews to eat out without fearing they may be eating something non-kosher, and they allow people to be religious in public, if they so desire, and this is the heart and soul of a liberal country. The Ministry for Religious Affairs will not reach decisions such as freeing hundreds of Agunot (Agunah – a woman whose husband has deserted her or has disappeared and who may not remarry until she gives proof of his death or obtains a bill of divorce) after the Yom Kippur War or declare that Ethiopians are authentic Jews – two initiatives taken by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef back in the days when focused on rulings rather than cursing.


True, even without Metzger, the situation is pretty bad. Three of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's sons rarely speak to one another due to the battle of egos surrounding the chief rabbi race, and a number of prominent rabbis do not want to run for the position of chief rabbi for fear the can of worms they are carrying will be opened. Closing the Chief Rabbinate of Israel is not the solution to the rampant corruption in the institution. The solution is to elect a worthy, honest and more pleasant leadership for the institution.



פרסום ראשון: 06.25.13, 11:20
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