World Jewish News
Israel's Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef. Photo: Moti Milrod
Israel's Chief Rabbi Should Be Disciplined for Racist Comments, Judicial Ombudsman Says
Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef should face disciplinary proceedings for making racist comments targeting immigrants from Russia and former Soviet states, the ombudsman of the Israeli judiciary Uri Shoham said Thursday. Yosef had called Russian immigrants to Israel "haters of religion" and "complete Gentiles.”
Shoham, a retired Supreme Court justice, instructed Religious Services Minister Yitzhak Vaknin to hold a disciplinary hearing for Yosef in response to a complaint filed by Avigdor Lieberman, the chairman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, against the contentious comments.
Shoham accepted the complaint against Yosef, who as part of his job as chief rabbi also serves as the senior religious court judge or rabbinic judge in the Supreme Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem. Shoham said that the statements in question are in clear violation of the ethics rules for rabbinic judges, which stipulate that a rabbinic judge must avoid expressing an opinion publicly on a controversial and non-legal matter.
Yosef had been warned in the past, Shoham said, but he refused to accept the ethics rules. Shoham’s decision is only a recommendation, but if Vaknin does not accept it – the decision could be used as the basis of a petition to the High Court of Justice on the matter, asking the court to order Vaknin to conduct a disciplinary proceeding against Yosef. The disciplinary process against a state employee has no criminal sanctions, but could include disciplinary measures such as suspension or firing.
The complaint was filed after Yosef gave a speech in January at a rabbinic conference in which he cast doubt on the Jewishness of Russian immigrants, saying they are “Gentiles who vote for all sorts of anti-religious parties.”
Shoham has no authority to hear the matter concerning Yosef, said Yitzhak Elharar the head of Yosef’s bureau. Yosef’s position as a religious court judge is just a small part of his authority as chief rabbi who was speaking about the matter of the problems of conversion, which is a matter that is part of his job as chief rabbi, Elharar added.
The complainants are trying to mislead the ombudsman while distorting what Yosef said and taking his comments out of context, and it seems to be for political propaganda as part of election campaigning, Elharar said. Netael Bandel