The national-religious rabbinical association Tzohar fired off a new round in
its war with the Chief Rabbinate by announcing on Thursday that it was beginning
a process to present candidates from the organization to stand in elections for
the two chief rabbi positions.
The elections will take place in six
Tzohar has frequently taken issue with the rabbinate’s approach
to the general public and founded its flagship free-of-charge marriage program
to provide an alternative to what it describes as “Israel’s strict rabbinic
“Tzohar has long been trying to influence the Israeli
mindset and explain that the Chief Rabbinate is a crucial junction for all Jews,
secular and religious alike, and so seeks to influence the character of the
institution,” the organization said on Thursday.
Having seemingly given
up on its efforts to change the Chief Rabbinate from the outside, Tzohar sent a
letter to hundreds of its member rabbis around the country inviting them to
present their candidacy to represent Tzohar in the elections for the chief
rabbis and the Council of the Chief Rabbinate.
“In order to advance our
principles, Tzohar must present its own candidates,” the letter read.
internal selection panel will examine the applicants and choose two candidates
for the roles of Sephardi and Ashkenazi chief rabbis.
The chief rabbi
positions have been filled by haredi rabbis for many years. The last chief
rabbis to be considered national-religious were Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu and
Rabbis Avraham Shapira, who left office in 1993.
Until the appointment of
Rabbi Michael Levy as chief rabbi of Petah Tikva earlier this year, the last
national-religious rabbi elected to a municipal position was Tzohar chairman
Rabbi David Stav in 1998 as chief rabbi of Shoham.
“The Chief Rabbinate
is possibly one of the most significant government entities in Israel and has a
direct impact on the lives of every man and woman in Israel from the day they’re
born to the day they die,” said Tzohar executive vice president Nachman
Rosenberg on Thursday.
“It is no less important to have a Chief Rabbinate
which represents inclusive Zionist values than it is to have a Zionist IDF chief
of staff who believes in the state.”
The chances that a Tzohar-affiliated
candidate will succeed in getting appointed as chief rabbi are slim however,
since the majority of the 150-member selection panel that elects the chief
rabbis – comprised of representatives from the government, the Knesset and
regional religious council – are haredi.
The chief rabbis’ term is 10
years and only one term may be served.
Last Friday, Tzohar launched a
campaign designed to “encourage” the Chief Rabbinate to adopt “a new approach to
The new campaign features bus and newspaper
advertisements and argues that the Chief Rabbinate “has become increasingly
aligned with anti-Zionist sectors within Israel,” and that it has alienated
nonreligious and even national-religious people from the religious establishment.