Group campaigns against 'anti-Zionist' Rabbinate

Tzohar rabbinical association slams rabbinate for alienating Israeli public in new public relations campaign.

Jerusalem chief rabbinate 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Jerusalem chief rabbinate 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The national-religious rabbinical association Tzohar launched a campaign on Friday designed to “encourage” the Chief Rabbinate to adopt “a new approach to religious leadership.”
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 establishment.
“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 Thursday.
“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 religious Zionism.
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.”
In particular, 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 said.
“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 home.
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 couples.
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.