Nissim Leon

The Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Israel and His Attitude Toward the Contemporary Sephardi Diaspora

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In this article I will highlight changes that have occurred in Israel’s Sephardi Chief Rabbinate since the appointment of figures aligned with the insular and voluntary model of the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community. I will illustrate the meaning of these changes via the question of how Israel’s Sephardi Chief Rabbi – the “Rishon LeZionµ – relates to Diaspora Jewry, as reflected in lectures (shiurim) for the general public delivered by Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, holder of the Rishon LeZion post since 2013. I will argue that, although the Rishon LeZion institution appeared to be powerless and redundant in the early 1970s, second in importance (if of any importance at all) to the then-dominant Ashkenazi Chief Rabbinate, sociological changes in this institution thanks to the appointment of Sephardi Chief Rabbis from among the first rank of the Sephardi-Haredi rabbinate has turned it into an entity with strong aspirations to attention and authority among religious and quintessentially voluntary entities in Israel and the Diaspora.

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