After Eleven Year Hiatus, Jerusalem Has Chief Rabbis Again

Backed by mayor and religious Zionist establishment, rabbis Stern and Amar elected municipality's new religious leaders.

Olivier Fitoussi

Rabbis Aryeh Stern and Shlomo Amar were voted Jerusalem's new chief rabbis of on Tuesday evening, after 11 years in which the posts stood vacant.

The 48 electors who cast their ballots at city hall on Tuesday afternoon chose Amar to serve in the capacity of the capital's Sephardi chief rabbi, and Stern as Ashkenazi chief rabbi.

The two winners enjoyed the backing of both Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, who has long wanted to get a Zionist rabbi elected as the city’s chief rabbi, and Naftali Bennett, chairman of religious-Zionist party Habayit Hayehudi.

In the Sephardi race, Amar won 28 votes, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu got 18, and Rabbi Haim Amsalem two. Eliyahu, who is currently serving as chief rabbi of Safed, is well known to the Israeli public due to his anti-Arab statements and edicts. He was  indicted for incitement to racism in 2007, but the charges were withdrawn after he retracted and apologized for his remarks.

In the race for Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Stern won 27 votes, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lau 20, and one envelope was left empty.

A short ceremony was held after the voting results were announced, in which the winners praised Jerusalem and heaped thanks on a long list of rabbis and politicians who aided their campaigns.

Using warm words, Amar offered his gratitude to Habayit Hayehudi party and called the movement's veteran leader Rabbi Chaim Druckman "My friend and rabbi." He neglected to thank Shas or its leader Aryeh Deri, despite the backing the party gave him.

Habayit Hayehudi hailed the election results as a victory for Zionism. "Jerusalem is in Zionist hands. [We] offer our blessings to the elected chief rabbis of Jerusalem... This is an important victory for the lovers of the nation of Israel, of the land of Israel, and of the Torah of Israel."

Shas leader Aryeh Deri, speaking on behald of his party, also offered his best wishes to the victors.