Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau spoke on Wednesday about reports which aired late last month, according to which Efrat Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, known for his more liberal stance on conversion and women's issues, will not have his tenure extended after having reached the retirement age of 75.
In a visit to the pensioners' study hall at the Meir Harel Yeshiva in Modi'in, the city where he was chief rabbi before becoming Israel's chief rabbi, Rabbi Lau dismissed the reports claiming the Chief Rabbinate intends to fire Rabbi Riskin, saying the intentions of the rabbinate were completely misconstrued.
"It's unfortunate that the matter of Rabbi Riskin's continued tenure went out of all proportions," emphasized Rabbi Lau, noting the media fanfare that has accompanied the matter.
Rabbi Lau said the reports, according to which Rabbi Riskin was being intentionally targeted for removal, were false.
The head of the pre-army yeshiva, Col. (res.) Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald, said that he "strengthens the hands of all those working for peace and unity in the Jewish people and for the respect of the rabbis and the rabbinate."
"I pray that this issue (of Rabbi Riskin's tenure – ed.) will end quickly and in a way that will preserve the honor of the Chief Rabbinate and the honor of Rabbi Riskin, who has many rights with the rabbinate," he added.
Rabbi Riskin was asked to attend the next Chief Rabbinate council, with the rabbinate saying that as a chief rabbi over 75, he is required to submit a written request to be reappointed, which he has not yet done. According to sources quoted by Haaretz, the decision to call in Rabbi Riskin was "political."
Following the report several influential rabbis, including Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, dean of the Har Bracha Yeshiva, have come out in defense of Rabbi Riskin.
The Tzohar Rabbinical Organization reacted furiously to the rumors as well, asserting that "above any effort to depose Rabbi Riskin flies a clear red flag of revenge directed against his positions and halakhic decisions."
Allegedly a key crux in the matter is Rabbi Riskin's stance on conversion, and his apparent plan to establish a court for conversion together with other local community rabbis.
Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Rabbi Riskin said that solving the conversion issue was a key matter for Israeli society, opining, "there are half a million Jews here, who were born of Jewish mothers. We could easily set up courts to convert them properly. Those courts could and should be more accepting, but they would operate properly under Jewish law."