The national-religious rabbinical association Tzohar launched a campaign on
Friday designed to “encourage” the Chief Rabbinate to adopt “a new approach to
The new campaign, which will feature bus and
newspaper advertisements along with the distribution of a letter to over 200,000
addresses across the country of, argues that the Chief Rabbinate “has become
increasingly aligned with anti-Zionist sectors within Israel,” and that it has
alienated non-religious and even national-religious Israelis from the religious
“As a result of the policies of the Chief Rabbinate,
restaurants across the country are foregoing kosher supervision; obstacles are
being placed in front of people interested in halachic conversions and more and
more Israelis are opting for a non-Jewish marriage ceremony abroad,” Tzohar
chairman Rabbi David Stav said in a statement to the press on
“With this growing wave of assimilation and abandonment of
Jewish tradition, the result will be a de facto detachment between the State of
Israel and its Jewish identity,” he said.
A spokesman for the rabbinate
said it had not received notice of the campaign and would wait to see the
content of the advertisements before commenting.
The campaign is being
launched to coincide with the 77th anniversary of the death of Rabbi Avraham
Isaac Kook, who created the rabbinate and is regarded as the founding father of
The central message of the new campaign, Tzohar says,
will be to convey Rav Kook’s teachings, which stressed “religious Torah values,
combined with a passionate loyalty to the Zionist State of Israel and unity of
the Jewish People.”
Stav said Tzohar hopes the campaign will “remind the
public that the Chief Rabbinate has strayed far away from the core values of
religious Zionism upon which the institution was created.”
Tzohar will be calling for the election of new rabbinical court judges “who
would be more open to the needs of the general public – not just the religiously
observant sectors,” and new guidelines for managing the marriage, divorce and
conversion processes in Israel.
Tzohar says these have been central to
the alienation of the secular community from the rabbinate.
The role of
the Chief Rabbinate in Israeli society must be completely re-evaluated, Stav
“We need to wake up and say that now is the time to make
substantial changes in the structure and mandate of the Rabbinate so that it
becomes an agency that is relevant for each and every Jew who calls Israel
This was the vision of Rabbi Kook who founded the Chief Rabbinate
and it must remain a priority today,” he said.
Tzohar has been a frequent
critic of the rabbinate, and set up its flagship marriage program to provide an
alternative to what it describes as “Israel’s strict rabbinic bureaucracy.” The
organization facilitates – free of charge – Jewish marriages for non-observant
Tzohar has frequently been at loggerheads with the rabbinate
over its marriage service, with tensions coming to a head last year when Tzohar
temporarily shut down its program in protest at what it said was discriminatory
regulations imposed on it by the rabbinate.