Haredim Elected as Chief Rabbis
(L-R) Rabbi Lau and Rabbi Yosef pictured during an emergency meeting to address a proposal to overhaul the Jewish religous conversion system in the country, June 3, 2018. Photo: Chief Rabbinate Spokesperson

July 24, 2013

Haredi Rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau are elected to 10-year terms as Israel’s chief rabbis — Yosef for the Sephardim and Lau for the Ashkenazim. Each wins 68 of the 147 ballots cast at Jerusalem’s Leonardo Hotel by 150 eligible voters: 80 rabbis representing religious councils and 70 secular officials from the government and local authorities.

Yosef and Lau are the sons of former chief rabbis. Ovadia Yosef was the Sephardi chief rabbi from 1973 to 1983 and remains a powerful spiritual leader of the Shas party. Yisrael Meir Lau was the Ashkenazi chief rabbi from 1993 to 2003 and is now the head rabbi of Tel Aviv.

While Shas supported Yosef and United Torah Judaism promoted Lau, the religious Zionist Jewish Home party, led by Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, backed the second-place finishers, Shmuel Eliyahu and David Stav. Stav’s campaign emphasized the need to revolutionize the rabbinate and appeal to more secular Jews. After being elected, Yosef vows to be the chief rabbi “for all of Israel, whether they are Haredi, religious or secular.”

Eliyahu receives 49 votes in the Sephardi election; Stav wins 54 votes in the Ashkenazi election. Finishing third are Ya’acov Shapira and Zion Boaron.

The chief rabbis control the leadership of Israel’s rabbinical courts, which have power over marriage, divorce and adoption. The chief rabbinate also oversees kosher food, conversion to Judaism and other aspects of Israeli Jewish life and plays a role in immigration.