Michael Melchior

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Michael Melchior
Rabbi Michael Melchior.jpg
Date of birth (1954-01-31) 31 January 1954 (age 61)
Place of birth Copenhagen, Denmark
Year of aliyah 1986
Knessets 15, 16, 17
Faction represented in Knesset
1999–2001 One Israel
2001–2009 Meimad
Ministerial roles
1999–2001 Minister of Social & Diaspora Affairs

Michael Melchior (Hebrew: מיכאל מלכיאור; born January 31, 1954) is the Chief Rabbi of Norway, and a former member of Knesset for Meimad.


A descendant of seven generations of rabbis in Denmark,[citation needed] Melchior was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1954. He was ordained as an Orthodox Rabbi at Yeshivat Hakotel of Jerusalem in 1980.[citation needed] Soon afterwards he returned to Scandinavia to serve as Chief Rabbi of Norway.[citation needed]

In 1986, he immigrated to Israel and settled down with his family in Jerusalem, while still holding the honorary title of Chief Rabbi of Norway.[1]

In late December 2011, it was reported that Melchior was being considered to succeed Jonathan Sacks as the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.[1]

Political career[edit]

Melchior entered politics with the Meimad party in 1995. When rabbi Yehuda Amital was appointed minister without portfolio after the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in November, 1995, Melchior served as Amital's assistant.[citation needed] Melchior was selected chairman of the managing committee of the Meimad party in early 1996.[citation needed]

In the 1999 elections, Meimad ran as part of the One Israel alliance with the Labor Party and Gesher. Melchior won a seat, and was appointed Minister of Social and Diaspora Affairs on 5 August 1999, a post he held until Ariel Sharon became Prime Minister in 2001. Melchior was re-elected to the Knesset as a member of the joint list in 2003 and 2006 as Meimad continued their alliance with the Labor Party. In 2008 Meimad broke away from the alliance and ran in partnership with the Green Movement in the 2009 elections, but failed to win a seat. On December 14 2012, on his Facebook page he said that he will quit Knesset elections.[2]

Extraparliamentary political activities[edit]

Melchior has been involved in a number of left-wing and non-partisan Jewish and Israeli organizations concerned with interfaith dialogue, education, inter-Jewish relations, the environment, economics and Arab-Israeli peace. Among them is Meitarim, a network of pluralistic Jewish schools in Israel that educate religious and secular students together.[3]

As part of his official roles in the Knesset and the Israeli government, Melchior was involved with Birthright Israel, an organization that has brought over 200,000 young Jews to explore their heritage in Israel and the Yachad Council, which promotes dialogue between secular and religious Jews,[citation needed] and he founded and continues to serve as honorary chairman of the Citizens' Accord Forum Between Jews and Arabs in Israel.[citation needed]

In 2002, Melchior initiated - together with his Palestinian counterpart Sheikh Talal Sider - an inter-religious summit in Alexandria, Egypt, co-sponsored by the Mufti of Egypt, Grand Imam of al-Azhar Mosque and Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar University - Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, Archbishop of Canterbury - George Carey, and Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron - Israel’s Chief Rabbi. The summit, which launched The Alexandria Process, brought together religious leaders from the Middle-East to adopt common principles aimed at preventing the region's religious sensibilities being exploited during conflicts, and declaring the need to work together towards peaceful solutions of the conflicts.[4] Together with Elie Wiesel, Melchior created the Mosaica Center for Interreligious Cooperation to "lead to the implementation" of the principles of the Alexandria Declaration.[5] He is also a member of the Elijah Interfaith Institute Board of World Religious Leaders.[6]

More controversially, in September 2012, Melchior claimed that that extremist Islamic leaders including the leaders of Hamas are ready for peaceful co-existence with Israel, and he added that he has "yet to meet with somebody who is not willing to make peace" with the Jewish state of Israel, placing the onus for lack of peace with extremist Islamic movements on Israel.[7]

Recently, Melchior has involved himself in economic issues. Melchior co-founded the Israel Civic Action Forum which promotes higher taxation on income from the extraction of natural resources, and the use of the tax income for higher government spending to increase government spending on welfare, education and health.[citation needed]

Melchior is a recipient of The Norwegian Award For Tolerance & Bridge Building in the Nobel Institute (1988),[8] The Church Of England’s Coventry International Prize For Peace & Reconciliation (2002),[citation needed] and the Liebhaber Prize For The Promotion Of Religious Tolerance And Cultural Pluralism (2007).[9]

In 2014, he along with Hadassah Froman of Tekoa and Yoel Bin Nun of Alon Shvut participated at the Gush Etzion mourning where a kidnapping of three yeshiva students took place on June 12, 2014,[10] who were found dead on June 30, 2014 and are believed to have been killed shortly after being kidnapped.[11]


Melchior and his wife Hanna, an occupational therapist, have five children and eleven grandchildren.[8]


  1. ^ a b "Israeli Rabbi Michael Melchior seen as contender for Britain’s chief rabbi post". Haaretz. December 29, 2011. Archived from the original on December 29, 2011. 
  2. ^ Sharon Udasin (December 14, 2012). "Meimad's Melchior to work in civil society". The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on April 12, 2014. Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  3. ^ Judy Lash Balint (April 12, 2012). "An education revolution comes to Israel". The Canadian Jewish News. Jerusalem. Archived from the original on April 12, 2014. Retrieved September 20, 2012. 
  4. ^ Yoav Stern (14 January 2004). "Israeli rabbis participate in Muslim peace conference in Cairo". Haaretz. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  5. ^ http://www.mosaica-interreligious.org/178926/About-Mosaica
  6. ^ http://www.elijah-interfaith.org/index.php?id=797
  7. ^ David Horovitz (September 16, 2012). "Islam is ready for peace with Israel, says rabbi who has met with ‘whole strata’ of radicals". Jerusalem: The Times of Israel. Archived from the original on September 28, 2012. Retrieved September 20, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b "Michael Melchior". JewAge. Archived from the original on April 12, 2014. Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  9. ^ "16th Annual Marc and Henia z”l Liebhaber Prize for the Promotion of Religious Tolerance in Israel 2013 (5773)". The Schechter Institute. March 20, 2013. Archived from the original on May 14, 2013. 
  10. ^ Elhanan Miller (June 17, 2014). "At kidnapping site, Jews and Muslims join in prayer". The Times of Israel. Archived from the original on June 18, 2014. Retrieved June 24, 2014. 
  11. ^ Bodies of three missing Israeli teenagers found in West Bank, The Guardian

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