In First Public Comments Following Tenure Extension, Rabbi Riskin Delivers Harsh Criticism of Chief Rabbinate

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The Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin made his first public statements following a month-long ordeal where Israel’s Chief Rabbinate held up the extension of his rabbinic tenure.

Speaking at a reception of Efrat residents hosted by Mayor Oded Ravivi to mark the continued tenure, Rabbi Riskin stated that he was forced to “rely on reports in the media” regarding his standing, and that the Rabbinate never attempted to reach out to him directly to explain the reason for the unprecedented delay in extending his tenure.

The ordeal began when the Chief Rabbinate decided not to automatically renew Rabbi Riskin’s post and instead chose to delay their decision as they examined the merit of extending his thirty-two year tenure as Efrat’s religious leader.

“The Rabbis didn’t speak with me at all,” said Rabbi Riskin.  “From the moment they chose not to automatically extend my tenure, I didn’t receive any indication from any of the members of the Chief Rabbinate whether they intended to renew my position.  Even the rumors that I was to be invited for some sort of hearing turned out to be false,” Rabbi Riskin continued.

Responding to claims that some of his Halachic rulings were deemed problematic by a few members of the Rabbinate, Rabi Riskin stated, “I am sure all of my decisions are based on accepted Halachic precedent.  Even the rulings that some viewed as too far ‘outside the box’ are based on decisions by former Chief Rabbis.  This is a debate about differing ideological paths.”

Rabbi Riskin also spoke about the Kashrut issue that has been publicly debated in recent days.  The Rabbi reminded his audience that it is in the interest of the Rabbinate that Kosher food be readily available to as many Jews as possible.

“The Chief Rabbinate must ensure that Kosher food is accessible to all the Jews in Israel, and that it is done so at the lowest possible cost to the general public.  It should be their highest priority that as many Jews as possible eat Kosher.  This is not what is happening right now with the latest decisions.  The Rabbinate should be opening its arms in acceptance and limiting divisiveness in Israeli society,” Rabbi Riskin concluded.

In his comments, Rabbi Riskin urged the Chief Rabbinate to dedicate itself to a more inclusive outlook on Israeli society and return to the vision for the institution set out by the original Chief Rabbi Kook which was intended to respond to the needs of all the Jewish citizens of Israel.

Gershon Elinson
Gershon Elinson
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