AJC Questions Rabbi Eliyahu's Candidacy for Chief Rabbi in Israel

AJC Questions Rabbi Eliyahu's Candidacy for Chief Rabbi in Israel

July 15, 2013 -- AJC is deeply concerned about Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu’s candidacy for Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel.

Eliyahu, currently Chief Rabbi of the Israeli city of Safed, has in the past called for the expulsion of Arabs from Safed College, and told Jewish property owners in Safed that they are "prohibited" from selling or renting apartments to Arabs.

With his current candidacy for Sephardic Chief Rabbi, controversy surrounding Eliyahu’s earlier remarks, never repudiated, led Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to question his views regarding Israeli Arabs. "It appears that your choice to serve at the highest level (Sephardic Chief Rabbi) is likely to be found unsuitable and to raise legal difficulties," the attorney general wrote to Rabbi Eliyahu.

"While AJC normally does not comment on internal Israeli elections, including for Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Eliyahu’s intolerant statements compel us to speak out. We join with those in Israel who have cautioned that his election to one of the two top rabbinic positions in the country could prove disastrous,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“Those who aspire to hold the office of Chief Rabbi ought to be asked whether they, in fact, identify with the Jewish and democratic values cherished by the overwhelming majority of Israeli society and world Jewry,” Harris continued. “Tragically, Rabbi Eliyahu's statements undermine the social fabric of Israeli society and the core tenets of Judaism.”

The election of Israel’s two Chief Rabbis, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, is scheduled to take place on August 26.

Date: 7/15/2013 12:00:00 AM

Media Inquiries

212-891-6771 / bandlerk@ajc.org