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Rabbi Stav announces candidacy for chief rabbinate
By JEREMY SHARON
10/01/2013
Chairman of national-religious rabbinical association 'Tzohar' will stand as candidate for position of chief rabbi of Israel.
 
Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the national-religious rabbinical association Tzohar, announced Wednesday night, via a YouTube video, that he would be standing as a candidate for the position of chief rabbi of Israel.

Stav’s long-awaited announcement has been expected since last August, when Tzohar began a campaign to prompt the chief rabbinate to adopt a more modern approach to the Jewish life in the country. The election of the new Ashkenazi and Sephardi Chief Rabbis will take place in June.

The appointments are made by secret ballot of a 150-member selection panel in which is comprised of representatives from the government, the Knesset and regional religious councils. The majority of the current members are considered haredi, but this could change after the elections. 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 bureaucracy.”

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.

During the four-and-a-half minute video, Stav said that during the 17 years of Tzohar’s activities, the organisation had come to realise that, “a great danger is forming in front of our eyes to the very existence of the Jewish people here in the state.”

Stav was referring to the growing numbers of young couples who go abroad to get married in civil ceremonies instead of in religious marriages in Israel. According to CBS data, approximately one third of secular Jewish citizens who get married, wed in civil marriages abroad. The phenomenon presents a problem to the future of Orthodox Jewish marriage since proof is required before marrying that a person is Jewish, which is usually provided by presenting the halachically mandated wedding certificate of each spouses’ parents. “So we are creating, by our own hands, two people here within the next decade or two: one a Jewish nation, religious or traditional, the second a non-Jewish Israeli nation,” Stav claimed. “There is no greater or significant destruction than this phenomenon.”

Tzohar largely blames the rabbinate for the decline in Jewish marriage in Israel due to what it describes as its unwelcoming and bureaucratic modus operandi. Stav said that every year more and more Israelis “recoil from the belittling attitude,” of the rabbinate, and the “fear of the rabbinate’s divorce process,” The rabbi said that for this reason, as well as increasing divisions between religious and secular communities in Israel, and and the disconnection of many people from Judaism and tradition led Tzohar to demand “a deep and substantial change to the chief rabbinate to return it to the path of embracing people.”
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