The Rabbinical Council of America offered its support to Israeli chief rabbi candidate David Stav after he was harassed at a wedding and labeled “a wicked man” by Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
In its letter backing Stav, the head of the Tzohar organization in Israel for Modern Orthodox rabbis, the RCA wrote in Hebrew that it appreciates what Stav has done ”for the good of the people of Israel, the land of Israel and the State of Israel.”
“We expect to work together with [Stav] for many years to increase the Torah and to glorify it, and to bring hearts closer to our Father in Heaven.”
Tzohar works to involve non-religious couples and their families in religious wedding ceremonies as well as in dialogue on other divisive issues in Israel. The RCA is an umbrella group for Orthodox rabbis.
Its letter comes a day after Stav was jostled and verbally abused at the Sunday night wedding of the daughter of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall. According to reports, a group of haredi Orthodox teens shoved Stav during the celebratory dancing and tried to make him fall. Later, he was attacked verbally by some guests.
On Saturday night, Yosef, a former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, said in a sermon that electing Stav as a chief rabbi would be like “bringing idolatry into the temple.”
“This man is a danger to Judaism, a danger to the Rabbinate, a danger to Torah – and I should keep silent? They want to make him a chief rabbi? This man unworthy of anything! Can they do such a thing?” Yosef said.
In a message on his Facebook page posted Sunday night, Stav thanked the public for the “thousands of emails, texts and phone calls I received today from rabbis, community leaders and many of you, to strengthen me and my family in light of the personal attacks against me.”
Stav added that he was “torn by the divisive atmosphere” around the Chief Rabbinate election.
Tzohar in a statement released Sunday said Yosef’s remarks testify to “the urgent need for change across the rabbinate” and said he should “repent and ask forgiveness.”
A date for choosing the next Ashkenazi and Sephardic chief rabbis has not been set, though it must take place in the coming weeks.