After much deliberation and consultation with colleagues, Rabbi David Stav, the Chief Rabbi of Shoham and chairman of the Tzohar organization, officially announced his candidacy for the office of Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi. The elections are set to take place in June.
As head of Tzohar, Rabbi Stav is responsible for a large network of activists whose goal is to assist secular Israelis to utilize religious services and embrace Jewish life. Among the organization's many programs is supplying rabbis without charge to marry secular couples in a proper halachic manner, and organizing prayer services on Yom Kippur and Purim for secular Israelis who would like to take part in the holidays, but feel uncomfortable in traditional synagogues.
In a video message announcing his candidacy, Rabbi Stav pointed to the need to duplicate the successes of Tzohar for Israelis as a whole as the reason behind his candidacy. “There is a great danger forming to the survival of Israel as a Jewish state,” he said in the message. “Each year, more young Israelis tell us that without Tzohar they would not have gotten married in a manner permitted by Jewish law, instead opting for a secular wedding in Cyprus, or a legal contract. They do this because they feel denigrated, because of their fear of facing a divorce at the hands of the rabbinate, and also because they see no need to marry according to Jewish law.” According to statistics, at least a third of secular Israelis are marrying in a non-halachic manner, and if this continues it could threaten the future of Israel as a Jewish state, he said.
Referring to the likely Hareidi opposition to his candidacy, Rabbi Stav said that he was not interested in the job in order to create controversies with any groups. “We are not against, we are for – for helping the Jewish people to get closer to Torah, for uniting Israeli society with the Creator of the World, for uniting us as a people. We want to turn what we have done for 17 years in Tzohar into a policy that will help all Israelis,” he added.