Rabbi David Stav speaking at Knesset 370.
(photo credit: Avi Friedman)
Failed Ashkenazi chief rabbi candidate Rabbi David Stav’s Tzohar organization
denied charges on Tuesday that it had wasted huge sums of money on an
Stav’s critics said “millions of shekels” had been
spent on billboards, newspaper advertisements, Facebook ads, and consultants
specializing in overseas media. The critics said the campaign earned name
recognition for Stav throughout the country and a positive portrayal in The New
York Times but may have turned off the 150-member voting body that decided last
Tzohar executive vice president Nachman Rosenberg, who is
charge of fund-raising for the rabbinical organization, said there was a silver
lining to Stav’s defeat. He would not confirm figures spent but said the critics
had exaggerated expenditures, were unaware of ads received for free, and
discounted success in Tzohar’s larger objective of restoring a positive Jewish
atmosphere in Israel.
“The race for chief rabbi was never a goal,”
“It was always a means to a goal. It would have been nice
to win, but we are proud that we changed the entire country’s discourse and
helped Israeli society reprioritize its values. We lost the Chief Rabbinate, but
we won the Jewish people.”
Rosenberg said Stav’s 54 votes come from
mayors and rabbis who represent a cross section of Israeli society. He noted
that the winners were using Stav’s lines about the need for the rabbinate to
serve the entire population in their acceptance speeches.
“In Tzohar, we
knew we were up against an 800-pound gorilla and people with a history of
corruption, but we felt that we had to fight for the people of Israel,” he
Rosenberg blamed the loss on the transformation within Shas that
returned to power former party leader Arye Deri, who ended attempts to persuade
Shas rabbis to accept Stav. Not a single donor has complained about the campaign
or expressed regret, he said.
In a letter Rosenberg sent to Tzohar’s
contributors, he wrote that while Stav’s family was glad to have him back, on a
national level there was a deep sense of tragic disappointment.
of Israelis, as well as hundreds of Jewish communities across the world, have
been dreaming of an uplifting revolution,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, the dream
of a Zionist, ethical, transparent, inclusive and inspiring Chief Rabbinate
seems to have been shot down by questionable political forces.”
reassured the donors that Tzohar’s leaders were neither bitter nor filled with
vengeance, and that they wished new Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau and Sephardi
Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef success.
“Should they surprise society and
attempt to rehabilitate the rabbinate, Tzohar will be the first to extend a warm
hand,” he wrote.
“Rabbi Stav has succeeded in awakening an entire country
and setting Judaism as a priority for the State of Israel. This is an
amazing accomplishment that we have only begun to leverage.”