Rabbi Amar courts Meretz representatives before election... then lies about it.

Rabbi Shlomo Amar's Uncandid Candidacy

Rabbi Shlomo Amar was elected Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Jerusalem after some back room wheeling and dealing. He invited Dr. Laura Wharton and Rabbi Bandel of Meretz over during the holiday of Sukkot to secure the Meretz vote, and then he claimed not to know them.

Rabbi Amar with Rabbi Bandel and Dr. Laura WhartonRabbi Amar with Rabbi Bandel and Dr. Laura Wharton

After the election of Rabbi Shlomo Amar to the position of Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Jerusalem, the ultra-Orthodox news site Kikar haShabbat published an article (in Hebrew, link here) titled ‘Now it can be revealed: The secret support received by Rabbi Amar’.

The article ends with the following apologia, which must make one wonder about the reason for its publication:

    “A clarification: The above information was already available to us by the holiday of Sukkot, but we chose not to publish it because of the great sensitivity of the matter; and the opportunity it would have presented for all parties to influence the outcome of the elections, the results of which are among the most significant of our generation.”

The question begs to be asked: what "secret" support did Rabbi Amar receive that might have influenced the election, particularly as the readership of the publication is overwhelmingly is ultra-Orthodox?

Revealing the “dirty” secret should shed some light on this question.

What "secret" support did Rabbi Amar receive that might have influenced the election?

As reported in Kikar haShabbat, on the final day of Sukkot, Rabbi Amar hosted Dr. Laura Wharton, Jerusalem City Council member and Meretz political party representative, and Rabbi Ehud Bandel, former president of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel in his sukkah in an effort to secure the Meretz party’s votes for his candidacy to become Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Jerusalem.

After the meeting, Rabbi Bandel made clear that Rabbi Amar had invited the two of them to get their support for his candidacy. He stated, “Rabbi Amar related [to us] with respect… he knew beforehand that I am a Masorti rabbi, and a candidate for the religious council of Jerusalem. He knew exactly who I was, and welcomed us.” His statement was also confirmed for Hiddush by Dr. Wharton.

Tellingly, Rabbi Amar’s representatives denied Rabbi Bandel’s statement, and claimed that "Rabbi [Amar] did not know who he was meeting with, and if he had known that it was them – he would not have met with them." It should be no surprise that such a denial would be made by the same former Israel Chief Rabbi who persistently condemned non-Orthodox Jews as ‘uprooters and destroyers of Judaism and waged political war against Conservative and Reform rabbis during his term of office. (click here for a compilation of Rabbi Amar’s quotes about non-Orthodox Judaism)

Rabbi Amar’s shameful and destructive assaults on the religious diversity of the Jewish People should be no more acceptable than racism.

Kikar haShabbat reported that Yizhar Hess, The CEO of the Masorti Movement, stated that Wharton and Bandel’s primary goal was to prevent the selection of Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, an outspoken racist against Israel’s Arab population, who was running against Rabbi Amar for the position of Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Jerusalem. “As part of his race for Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, since the electoral body includes representatives whose votes [Rabbi Amar] needs, he invites Rabbi Ehud Bandel to his sukkah to discuss matters of peoplehood, the world stage, and elections,” wrote Hess.

As important – and praiseworthy – as the campaign run to prevent the election of Rabbi Eliyahu and reject racism was, it must be understood that fighting racism is only a part of the task at hand. We must take a holistic view of what it means for Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and to emphasize the need for a reality in which Rabbi Amar’s shameful and destructive assaults on the religious diversity of the Jewish People would be no more acceptable than racism.

It is of tremendous concern to learn that there were conflicting reports about Rabbi Amar’s awareness of Rabbi Bandel’s identity. But, then, it is concerning about the meeting, itself. Was this a congenial celebration of Sukkot or, as is probably true, was it simply another instance of politics as usual?


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