Legal Loophole Spells Four More Years for Chief Rabbinate Head

Despite a decision in principle to limit the terms of all senior civil servants, the contract of Chief Rabbinate director general Oded Weiner was recently extended for four years, after which he will have spent almost 13 years in the post.

Oded Weiner
Tess Scheflan

Weiner was appointed in February 2001. Two years later, new chief rabbis were chosen - Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger. Weiner is considered very close to Metzger and is seen as his right-hand man. In contrast, Amar has tried repeatedly to replace Weiner, claiming that he lacks the necessary administrative skills for the job.

Some time ago the government decided in principle that the terms of senior civil servants should be limited, on the grounds that a bureaucrat can amass too much power after many years in the same position. Government staffers then drew up term limits for every single officeholder, and in January 2010 the cabinet ratified their proposal.

For the rabbinate's director general, the assigned term was four years with the option of one four-year extension. But Weiner's superiors took advantage of the interval between the drafting of the term-limit proposal and the cabinet's ratification of it to extend his contract for an additional four-year term ending in 2013.

The cabinet resolution granted an exemption to civil servants who had served beyond their allotted term if their signed a contract had a clear termination date.

One outcome of the extension of his term is that Weiner will serve under the new chief rabbis who are due to be appointed in mid-2013. They will have to wait until his term ends to appoint a director general of their own choosing, who will be subject to the new term limits.

"The contract was extended before the cabinet resolution, so it doesn't apply to me," Weiner said in response.

The cabinet's approval in January of term limits has led to some senior bureaucrats being ousted. Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Dahan, director general of the Rabbinical Courts Administration, was recently pushed out after 20 years in the job. Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander, another long-time officeholder, will soon be leaving as well.