Education Minister Naftali Bennett asserted on Thursday that any attempts to remove Rabbi Shlomo Riskin from the chief rabbinate of Efrat were “unacceptable."
"I cannot allow a situation where public servants are silenced or banned for their views. Rabbi Riskin established Efrat, a very important city in Israel, and he gets enormous credit for his work. We cannot allow him to be turned into a target for interests seeking to shoot down his ideas.”
Bennett made the comments in wake of reports that the Rabbinate might not renew Rabbi Riskin's contract.
The Rabbinate has been under heavy pressure not to renew the contract, apparently due to Rabbi Riskin's stance on conversion, and his apparent plan to establish a court for conversion together with other local community rabbis.
Speaking Wednesday, a Rabbinate source declined to name the source of the pressure, but said “the harsh and bullying language being used on this matter against the Rabbinate, the Chief Rabbis, and rabbis in communities, are a very serious matter. This is not the way of our Torah."
Regarding the renewal of Rabbi Riskin's position, the source said that the Rabbinate intends to follow procedure. “We are not a 'rubber stamp' and we do not automatically extend the term of a local rabbi,” the source said.
Technically, the Rabbinate said that if Rabbi Riskin's contract is not renewed, it would be due to the fact that he is over 75, the mandatory retirement date for community rabbis. However, many supporters of the rabbi say this rule has been waived numerous times in the past.
Bennett has asked the Rabbinate to immediately renew Rabbi Riskin's contract. “I spoke to Rabbi Riskin and told him that if could not get to a hearing on the matter because of age or health issues, I would be a stand-in for him at the hearing."