Israel swears in new chief rabbis

Monday, August 19, 2013 |  Yossi Aloni

President Shimon Peres last week swore in Israel's new chief rabbis at the official President's Residence in Jerusalem, where the winners of the recent contentious rabbinical election signed a declaration of allegiance to the Jewish state.

"The people of Israel need you today, perhaps more than ever, and thirst to find the shining path of Jewish tradition," Peres said, addressing Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.

The president continued: "The people of Israel pray for an honorable rabbinate that will work toward national unity, a rabbinate with a soul that will respond with great spirit to the challenges of eternity and of day-to-day life. ...[a rabbinate] that will carry high the Ten Commandments."

In his speech, Rabbi Yosef said, "Our job is to work to earn the trust given to me, and I intend to stand on the commandment to bring people together. I call to everyone - give us a chance to restore the status of the rabbinate. An institution that suffers from a lack of legitimacy cannot function."

Rabbi Lau added, "We have been asked to think about every one of the people of Israel and seek their favor, to pass on the [national] legacy and illuminate the teachings of Judaism for all Israel. We will leave not stone unturned in the bookcase of Jewish teaching to find a worthy solution."

Addressing the gathering, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni offered her blessings and said, "My hope is that you will make Judaism inclusive and not just exclusive. We cannot find peace with our neighbors if we are not at peace with one another."

Livni was referring to the growing secular-religious rift in Israel, which played a major role in the recent national elections. Many young Israelis voted for new secular parties in protest over what they see as coercion and a shunning of responsibility by the religious sectors of society.

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