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Monday, September 23, 2013

Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef breaks law by appearing at political rally

Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef delivering a speech at the rally

Only a week after being crowned with the honorific "rishon lezion," the newly elected chief Sephardic rabbi may be facing a run-in with Israeli law. This past Saturday night, Yitzhak Yosef participated in a political rally for Shas in Bnei Brak marking the beginning of the local elections -- in violation of the law.
Chief Rabbi

The event took place at the Armonot Chen hall, and according to those present, was divided into two parts: The first part, during which the rabbis gave speeches calling to strengthen the support for Shas in the ultra-Orthodox city, and the second part, which featured traditional dancing.

The rally, according to those taking part, was entirely political, and included the participation of rabbis and Shas officials. 

The guest of honor was supposed to be Aryeh Deri, but he was not available due to former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's illness.

One of the highlights of the event was when the new chief rabbi, who is Ovadia's son, delivered a speech about the Torah and spiritual strength.

However, according to clause 42.322 of the civil service regulations, Yosef was not allowed to participate in the rally at all because he is considered to be "a state employee, who ranks as one of the four highest positions in the administrative leadership." As such, he is subject to the "prohibition of participation in the public gatherings of political parties or of any political body as a lecturer on any topic, due to the fact that the appearance of the employee on a party stage may create the impression of party affiliation," as is written in the regulations.

A response from Shas stated, "This was an event for the municipality of Bnei Brak and was funded by the municipality. There was no mention of Shas at the event or in the publicizing of the event."

Yet pictures from the event show differently -- there was a huge sign posted with the Shas slogan: "Et achai anochi mevakesh" ("I seek my brethren"). 

According to an eyewitness, during the event, organizers realized that this was a political event that could complicate things for the chief rabbi, so they placed a white piece of paper over the letters reading "Shas" on the banner.

Additionally, the municipality of Bnei Brak stated: "The municipality did not take part in funding the event, but rather assisted with the spreading and hanging [of notices about the event]." Also, a notice sent out by Shas in the ultra-Orthodox media said: "This evening, a Shas conference in honor of the beginning of the elections will take place. Rabbis, members of the Council of Torah Sages and the city's Shas representatives will take part."

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