Rabbi David Stav, the chairman of Tzohar Rabbinical Organization and chief rabbi of Shoham, announced his candidacy for the position of Israel's
chief rabbi following consultations with senior rabbis, public figures and hundreds of grass roots Israelis.
The elections will take place in June.
In a recorded video message distributed to his supporters, Rabbi Stav explained how after 17 years of working with his colleagues at Tzohar to bring the diverse groups within Israel together, he realized that the imminent dangers to society demand he work from inside the system to reform the rabbinate.
Through Tzohar's flagship voluntary program of wedding non-religious Jewish couples, Rabbi Stav experienced firsthand the frustration of so many Israeli couples who had all but given up ceremonies based on age-old Jewish customs and were contemplating traveling abroad to marry.
"There is a real danger to the Jewish character of the State of Israel and it's growing on a daily basis," Rabbi Stav said in his video message. "Due to the inexplicable and disparaging behavior of the official rabbinate, more Israelis are traveling abroad or signing domestic civil agreements rather than getting married according to their families' sacred traditions."
Rabbi Stav's alarming impressions from his two decades of work in this area were corroborated by a recent study released by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. According to the CBS, a third of self-identified non-religious Israelis chose to either marry abroad or enter a domestic civil agreement rather than wed by the Israeli Rabbinate.
"We must fully understand what these numbers mean," Rabbi Stav emphasized. "A large number of Israelis are saying 'anything but the rabbinate' when it comes to this once in a lifetime choice.
"This challenge comes along with ever-growing number of Israelis who are no longer considered Jewish according to official census numbers. In just a few generations we might find ourselves as two nations – Jewish and unrecognized Jewish."
This situation led Rabbi Stav together with the president of Tzohar, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel – the chief rabbi of Ramat Gan – to publish their Elul Plan. This program, which calls for deep and long-lasting reforms in the rabbinate, will serve as the basis for Rabbi Stav's platform if elected chief rabbi.
Rabbi Stav also announced that he had begun a phased resignation from his position as chair of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization.
At the conclusion of his message Rabbi Stav stressed that his candidacy was not intended to threaten any segments of the Israeli population, but rather serve as a platform for uniting the nation.
Citing the legacy of his grandfather, the Great Rabbi of Zeville, Rabbi Stav added that "this is a candidacy 'for' and not 'against.' We are for uniting the Jewish people with their Torah heritage, for bringing all Jews closer to God.
"We are for uniting the Israeli people as one. This is what we did for close to two decades at Tzohar and this is the spirit that we plan to bring to all of Israel once I am elected chief rabbi."