Rabbi Ovadia Yosef endorses his youngest son for Sephardi Chief Rabbi

  The Shas spiritual leader chooses to back Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, after preferred candidate, (his older) son Avraham Yosef, is interrogated by police for breach of trust in carrying out duties as Holon Chief Rabbi.

By Yair Ettinger | Jul.12, 2013

  The candidacy of Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, the youngest son of Shas party spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, for Israel's next Sephardi chief rabbi was publicly endorsed by his father Friday morning.

  The elder Yosef's decision comes following an investigation into another son and potential candidate, Rabbi Avraham Yosef. “His election will bring honor to the institution of the rabbinate whose essence is issuing religious rulings,” the Shas party said in a statement.

  Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef currently serves as a rosh yeshiva, or a dean of an institution of religious learning, and is responsible for the writing of the halakhic work of his father. Yitzhak Yosef was nominated by the elder Yosef for the position of Jerusalem chief rabbi years ago.

  The decision by the Shas party spiritual leader came after his son Avraham Yosef, who was considered his preferred candidate for Sephardi chief rabbi, was interrogated by police on Tuesday on suspicion of breach of trust in carrying out his job as chief rabbi of Holon. Avraham Yosef is suspected of a conflict of interest in his provision of certificates of kashrut mehadrin (a certification of the most stringent adherence to kosher dietary laws). The rabbi was interrogated for eight hours by Lahav 443, the police unit tasked with fighting corruption and organized crime, before being allowed to return home.

  The police investigation against Avraham Yosef has been underway for several months now, but the timing of its public revelation was dramatic, coming right before Shas' expected candidate endorsement for Sephardi chief rabbi and two weeks ahead of the rabbinate elections. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef had already decided after some hesitation that he would support Avraham and not his younger son Yitzhak for the position, but Shas had delayed putting out an official statement. Avraham Yosef had also received the support of his brother Moshe Yosef, a dominant figure in Shas, who also owns the successful kashrut certification organization, Badatz Beit Yosef.

  As Holon chief rabbi, Avraham Yosef is responsible for the government kashrut certification system. However, a previous Haaretz report found that Avraham Yosef had used his position to promote Shas' political interests in the city by firing one of his workers for volunteering off-hours for an opposing political party. Moreover, a report by journalists Israel Rosner and Raviv Drucker that aired on Channel 10's investigative news program Hamakor several months ago found that Avraham Yosef was pressuring food businesses in Holon to seek kashrut certification from Badatz Beit Yosef, the private organization that he founded with his brothers. On Thursday, Shas circles pointed the finger at the rabbi's opponents accusing them of a “targeted assassination” a week before the deadline for filing as a candidate for chief rabbi.

  Rabbi Avraham Yosef, who serves as member of the Chief Rabbinate Council and as chairman of the National Kashrut Committee, also has opponents within the rabbinate. “In the rabbinate they knew that he favored the interests of Badatz Beit Yosef over those of government kashrut certification and they knew that this would be the situation if he were elected Israel's chief rabbi,” a source close to the rabbinate told Haaretz.