Tzohar: Stav’s loss in run for chief rabbi has silver lining

Organization rejects criticism that campaign wasted money, says larger objective of restoring positive Jewish atmosphere attained.

Rabbi David Stav speaking at Knesset 370 (photo credit: Avi Friedman)
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 unsuccessful effort.
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 week’s race.
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,” Rosenberg said.
“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 said.
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.
“Millions 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.”
Rosenberg 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.”