Israel's Other Impending Election

David Stav Offers Illusion of Pluralism in Chief Rabbi Fight

By Uri Regev

Published January 21, 2013, issue of January 25, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

While attention remains focused on the election of a new Knesset and the formation of a new government, the battle over another election — for Israel’s Chief Rabbinate — is just heating up. These elections, too, have far-reaching ramifications for the American Jewish community and for the well-being of Israel.

David Stav
courtesy of tzohar
David Stav

In recent decades, the well-organized and well-funded ultra-Orthodox political machinery has effectively gained control over the selection of Israel’s chief rabbis. A new campaign is now under way to elect Rabbi David Stav, head of the Modern Orthodox rabbinic organization Tzohar, as the next Ashkenazi chief rabbi. According to newspaper reports, a possible deal has been struck between Stav and Shlomo Amar, the current Sephardic chief rabbi, ensuring mutual support for electing Stav for the Ashkenazi post, and for re-electing Amar as chief Sephardic rabbi.

The Jewish Diaspora is being encouraged to rally support behind Stav’s candidacy based on the promise that with him the Chief Rabbinate is going to be inclusive, accommodating and liberal.

Unfortunately, this is indeed just an illusion.

In the case of Amar, the picture is clear. His sentiments against non-Orthodox Judaism are so strong that he issued a statement attacking the Supreme Court for ordering the State of Israel to recognize Reform and Conservative rabbis serving in rural communities. He demonized Reform Judaism as “destroyers, terrorists, God’s enemies” and worse. Coming from the Chief Rabbinate, these attitudes against Jewish pluralism, gender equality and the like, are increasingly offending the overwhelming majority of world Jewry.

I applaud much of the Tzohar rabbis’ work. They emerged on the public scene to offer a more user-friendly and lenient alternative to the increasingly fundamentalist Chief Rabbinate; however, their most recent battle complicates this first impression. In 2011, Tzohar launched a worldwide campaign against the Ministry of Religious Services (then, and still, controlled by the religious Sephardic political party Shas) and the Chief Rabbinate in order to gain formal authority for their members to serve as marriage officiants.

To advance their case, the Tzohar rabbis adopted a disturbing and telling approach: While in Israel they based their campaign on demonizing Reform and civil alternatives, they left this part out of their appeal to the non-Orthodox leadership in the United States when asking them to help apply pressure to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.