JERUSALEM (JTA) – Rabbi Shlomo Riskin called on Israel’s Chief Rabbinate to dedicate itself to a more inclusive outlook on Israeli society.
On Monday, in his first public remarks since the controversy over his tenure as chief rabbi of Efrat, Riskin said the Chief Rabbinate never attempted to reach out to him directly to explain the reason for the unprecedented delay in extending his tenure.
“The Rabbinate should be opening its arms in acceptance and limiting divisiveness in Israeli society,” Riskin said at a reception of Efrat residents hosted by Mayor Oded Ravivi to mark the five-year extension of his tenure.
Riskin turned 75 in May, the age at which municipal rabbis are required to retire unless their tenure is extended five years, as is usually done automatically. But the Chief Rabbinate declined to automatically renew Riskin’s appointment as chief rabbi and called for a hearing, which Riskin said he learned about through media reports.
Riskin has been the chief rabbi of Efrat since 1983, when he helped found the settlement located in the Gush Etzion bloc of the West Bank.
Responding to claims that some of his halachic rulings were deemed problematic by members of the Chief Rabbinate, Riskin said, “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.”
Riskin recently appointed a woman, Jennie Rosenfeld, to serve as a religious leader in Efrat, giving her the title “manhiga ruchanit,” or spiritual adviser. He has also come under fire from the Chief Rabbinate for his views on reforming the conversion process in Israel, supporting a government directive that was overturned by the Cabinet on Sunday that would have allowed municipal chief rabbis to form conversion courts rather than requiring potential converts to appear before four Chief Rabbinate-led courts.