Shlomo Amar

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Shlomo Amar
שלמה עמאר
PikiWiki Israel 8066 Shlomo Amar.JPG
TitleChief Rabbi of Jerusalem
Shlomo Moshe Amar

1948 (age 71–72)
Spanish (Honorary)[1]
Otherformer Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel

Shlomo Moshe Amar (Hebrew: שלמה משה עמאר Arabic: سليمان موسى عمار‎; born in 1948)[2] is the former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel. He served as the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel and the Rishon LeZion from 2003 to 2013. His Ashkenazi counterpart in those years was Rabbi Yona Metzger.

Early life[edit]

Shlomo Amar was born in Casablanca, Morocco, and immigrated to Israel in 1962 at age 14. He was a close associate of the spiritual leader of the Shas party and former Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Ovadia Yosef. Before his appointment as co-Chief Rabbi of Israel, Amar had served as the head of the Petah Tikva Rabbinical Court. He was elected chief rabbi of Tel Aviv in 2002, the first sole Chief Rabbi of the city.

Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel[edit]

As the former Rishon LeZion, Amar served as the spiritual leader of the Sephardic community in the Land of Israel. Jews from around the world continue to look to him as a leader.[3][4][5]

Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem[edit]

In October 2014, after Jerusalem had gone 11 years without a chief rabbi, Amar was elected as the city's Sephardic Chief Rabbi, alongside Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern. Amar had the support of Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett.[2][6]

Bnei Anusim[edit]

Rishon LeZion Shlomo Amar (right) with Jewish author Joseph J. Sherman

In 2004, Rav Amar traveled to Portugal to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Lisbon synagogue Shaare Tikvah. During his stay, Amar met descendants of Jewish families persecuted by the Inquisition who still practice Judaism (Bnei Anusim) at the house of Rabbi Boaz Pash. This was an historical meeting that had not happened between a Chief Rabbi and Portuguese Marranos (Bnei Anusim) in centuries. Amar promised to create a committee to evaluate the halakhic status of the community. Due to the delay of the committee to do any work a second community in Lisbon, Comunidade Judaica Masorti Beit Israel, was later established to ensure the recognition of the Bnei Anusim as Jews.[7]

Work with "Lost Tribes"[edit]

In 2002, Rav Amar was sent by then-Interior Minister Eli Yishai to Ethiopia to meet with the Falash Mura community, a group of Ethiopian Jews whose ancestors converted to Christianity. He subsequently recommended that they undergo a conventional conversion to Judaism, which provoked an angry reaction. Later, in 2003, as Chief Rabbi, he reversed himself, saying that anyone related to a member of Beta Israel through matrilineal descent qualified as Jewish and should be brought to Israel by the government (and then undergo a formal conversion ceremony after a period of study). In January 2004, following the recommendations of the Knesset and the Chief Rabbis, Ariel Sharon announced a plan (still[when?] largely unimplemented) to bring all of the Falash Mura (presently close to 18,000) to Israel by the end of 2007.[8]

Civil marriage proposal[edit]

Rav Amar made news in September 2005 when he told a Shinui MK that he was willing to support civil marriages for non-Jews and people who are unaffiliated with a religion. Amar pointed out the difference between his idea and that of his predecessor, Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, who had proposed civil marriage for anyone interested in 2004. Amar's plan, by comparison, would only apply to the marriage of non-Jews with each other. Amar stated that his suggestion was designed to solve the problem of Israel's 300,000 religionless, non-Jewish immigrants, many from the former Soviet Union who claim Jewish identity and citizenship, but whose Jewish status may not be accepted by Orthodox standards and the Chief Rabbinate. Amar called on representatives of the non-Jewish immigrants to discuss the matter with representatives of the rabbinate.[9]

Interfaith relations[edit]

In an Arabic-written letter to the Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Amar criticized Benedict XVI's remarks on Islam, writing: "Our way is to honour every religion and every nation according to their paths, as it is written in the book of prophets: 'Because every nation will go in the name of its Lord.'"[10] He later told Benedict that it was his duty to spread the message that the Jewish people belong in the Land of Israel.[11]

In April 2015, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, expressed his "stomach churning" in light of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin's Day to Praise joint interfaith Hallel praise initiative of Jews and Christians in a synagogue in Jerusalem.[12]

In December 2019, he visited Bahrain for interfaith event, where he met the King, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and religious leaders from Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Russia, the United States, Italy, India, and Thailand.[13]

Amending the Law of Return[edit]

In November 2006, Amar submitted a draft bill to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that would remove the conversion clause from the Israeli Law of Return. This would prevent converts from all streams of Judaism, including Orthodox Judaism, from having automatic citizenship rights in Israel, and restrict the Law of Return to applying only to Jews by birth whose mothers were Jewish.[14][15] This also affects potential immigrants who are descended from only one Jewish parent or grandparent, not all of whom would be accepted as Jewish under Orthodox law. See also: Matrilineal descent and Who is a Jew?

Amar said in interviews that the bill was designed to prevent "a situation where there are two peoples in the State of Israel". Amar said the Law of Return's inclusion of converts had turned the conversion process into a political, rather than religious, exercise, and that many people were converting for immigration purposes, not out of sincere religiosity. Amar suggested that an alternative could be that converts, upon arriving in Israel, went through a naturalization process via the Citizenship Law. The bill also gives rabbinic courts and the Chief Rabbinate sole authority over conversions.

Amar said that the bill was partially written in response to the Israeli Supreme Court deliberating a dozen petitions by the Israeli Reform movement to allow Reform converts to stay in Israel. Jews converted under Reform or Conservative auspices abroad have been accepted under the Law of Return since 1989, but the 2006 case deals with conversions that occurred in Israel. Amar argued that if the Reform converts were permitted to stay in the country, they would eventually become frustrated with their inability to marry Jews (as the Chief Rabbinate would not recognize their conversions as valid), and this would lead to them marrying non-Jews, which would polarize the state.

Amar received some criticism from the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel and America, and various Israeli politicians and government figures, including Menachem Mazuz, Yossi Beilin, and UTJ MK Avraham Ravitz, who said he did not believe Amar's bill, if passed, would stop Reform or Conservative converts from receiving citizenship, which would lead back to the initial problem of "two peoples" in Israel. He added that Amar's proposed bill would constitute blatant discrimination against converts.[16] Other commentators noted that the citizenship process for non-Jews can be long and arduous, and pointed out that there are presently many naturalized Israelis, particularly immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who do not meet the halakhic definition of a Jew. One report, challenging Amar's claim that his bill was meant as a preventative measure, wrote, "The 'division of the Jewish people in Israel' is a present reality, not a future possibility."[17]

However, some in Israel's legal community supported separating religious conversion from the secular citizenship process. Amar also received support from several religious politicians such as NRP MK Zevulun Orlev, who said the bill would protect Jewish unity.[16]


Politicians and gay rights activists have called for the resignation of Amar after his comments on homosexuality in an interview with Israel Hayom newspaper, where he stated that homosexuality was a "cult of abomination", which the Torah "punishes ... with death".[18][19]


  1. ^ ספרד העניקה אזרחות כבוד לגרש"מ עמאר
  2. ^ a b Gantz, Nesanel. "A Chief Rabbi of the Past and Future". Ami, November 5, 2014, pp. 26-27.
  3. ^ GREER FAY, CASHMAN (2014-04-22). "Grapevine: Mimouna fever". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 20 May 2014. Peres went first to the tent of former chief rabbi Shlomo Amar adjacent to the Ahavat Shalom Synagogue in the capital’s Givat Hamivtar neighborhood
  4. ^ SHARON, JEREMY (2014-04-20). "Peres meets with Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Shas outcast Rabbi Shlomo Amar". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  5. ^ Frances, Kraft (June 2012). "Canadian rabbis respond to Rabbi Amar" (PDF). Canadian Jewish News. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  6. ^ Adato, Edna (22 October 2014). "Jerusalem Names Two Chief Rabbis After 11 Year Hiatus". Israel Hayom.
  7. ^ "Partner Organizations – Comunidade Judaica Masorti Beit Israel (Lisbon, Portugal)". Grundtvig Partnership – Masorti in Europe.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-01-15. Retrieved 2005-12-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Sephardic chief rabbi criticizes pope's remarks" Archived 2006-09-20 at the Wayback Machine, Haaretz, 17 September 2006
  11. ^ Chief Rabbi to Pope: Tell the world Jews belong in Israel
  12. ^ Cohen, Ishay (22 April 2015). "זעזוע בירושלים: "תפילה" משותפת ליהודים ונוצרים" (in Hebrew). Kikar HaShabbat. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  13. ^ "Jerusalem chief rabbi visits Bahrain for interfaith event, meets king". The Times of Israel. 10 December 2019.
  14. ^ Brackman, Rabbi Levi. Sephardic rabbi wants tougher conversions, YNetNews, November 20, 2006. Accessed April 19, 2008.
  15. ^ Barkat, Amiram. Chief Rabbinate prepares bill to remove converts from Law of Return Archived 2007-01-10 at the Wayback Machine,, November 21, 2006. Accessed April 19, 2008.
  16. ^ a b Wagner, Matthew (November 20, 2006). "Chief Rabbi for changing Law of Return". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved April 19, 2008.
  17. ^ Gorenberg, Gershom. Torn Between the Land and the State, Jewish Daily Forward, December 1, 2006. Accessed April 19, 2008.
  18. ^ "Israel Chief Rabbi Amar condemned for 'gay death penalty' comment". BBC. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  19. ^ "Jerusalem chief rabbi calls homosexuality an 'abomination'". The Time of Israel. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
Jewish titles
Preceded by
Eliyahu Bakshi Doron
Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel
Succeeded by
Yitzhak Yosef