Zionist rabbinical organization as launched a public information campaign designed to encourage a new approach to religious leadership within the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.
The organization is suggesting that the Rabbinate be strengthened through a change in its policy with regards to State and religion, but it has been estimated that this is the opening shot in Tzohar's election campaign for the position of chief rabbi.
Under the headline "His legacy – our path," which refers to Rabbi Kook,
the campaign includes newspaper and bus advertisements, as well as a mission statement outlining the organization's vision for a revised Chief Rabbinate, which were distributed to more than 200,000 people over the weekend, JTA reported.
There is even a Facebook app where users can choose the issues they believe the Rabbinate should focus on.
The vision includes electing 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 adoption and conversion processes in Israel - three areas that have been particularly notorious in alienating the secular community.
“The Israeli public demands a Rabbinate that responds to the needs of all Israelis and not just those of specific segments within society,” Tzohar President Rabbi David Stav said in a statement.
“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.
“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,“ Stav added.
“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.”
The campaign was launched on the yartzheit of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the historic founder of the Chief Rabbinate and widely regarded as the founding father of religious Zionism, and will continue until after the Jewish High Holidays.
The Rabbinate elections are not mentioned.
Tzohar, which helps to involve non-religious couples and their families in religious wedding ceremonies - marrying about 3,000 couples a year free of charge, had been embroiled in a fight with the Chief Rabbinate over the service.
Earlier this summer, the Chief Rabbinate agreed to lift restrictions on rabbis from Tzohar from conducting weddings. In return, Tzohar pledged to withdraw a lawsuit against the Rabbinate and to try to stop legislation that would have taken away the Rabbinate's hegemony over who conducts marriages.
Over the last two decades the haredi bloc has had complete control over the religious services sector power houses. This most comes into play with the selection of the chief rabbi, city rabbis and rabbinical court judges who are predominantly affiliated with the haredi sector.
A slight turnabout has occurred over the last two months when Shas, a professed ally of the haredi parties, abandoned its partnership and started making deals with the religious Zionist camp.
An agreement between the religious Zionists and shas is now being finalized for the elections of Jerusalem's chief rabbi and there are hopes that the new partnership will reach its zenith with the election of a Zionist religious chief rabbi next spring.