On Saturday night, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger confirmed that he would not seek a second term as chief rabbi until told to by senior rabbis, following a trip to Spain with Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar. Metzger’s statement confirmed a report in the the Charedi BaKehila newpaper in which he was quoted as saying he would not seek re-election in 2013, even if a bill in the Knesset were passed to allow him to do so, unless told to by rabbis.
The two chief rabbis spent a few days in Spain last week at the request of the Federación de Comunidades Judías de España to boost the morale of the Jewish community and aid in the establishment of Rabbinic courts and kashruth supervision. While there, the rabbis also tried to convince Jewish husbands who refused to give their wives a Jewish divorce document – a ‘get’ by collaborating with the Spanish court system.
According to Metzger, “the Jewish community is developing in Spain and mostly hails from Morocco, but also includes [Jews of] Ashkenazi origin. Spain is the only Spanish-speaking country in the European Union, so all those fearful of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, or with security fears from Mexico and Guatemala – are seeking a safe haven, where the language will be less of an obstacle. The community that was emptied in the Spanish Expulsion is undergoing resurgence.”
Metzger elaborated that the decision to form a rabbinic court in Spain was linked to a change in the leadership in the Spanish Jewish Federation from a pluralist to more traditionalist orientation, which led to a desire for Orthodox institutions. One of the major issues affecting the Jewish community was the refusal of Jewish husbands to divorce their wives via a Jewish court. As a result, the two chief rabbis proposed to Spanish officials that no civil divorce be approved without a prior Jewish divorce reported by a rabbinical court.
It is unknown if the Sephardic Chief Rabbi would do if the bill passed, although many assume he will remain in place as the leader of the Shas party is likely to change as Rabbi Ovadia Yosef becomes less active in politics.
Rabbi Metzger said he could fill any number of positions in Israel or abroad, but would not provide any details.