Elections for the Chief Rabbinate Council will be held in less than two weeks, and candidates are lining up.       

The deadline for submitting candidacy is this Monday, Sept. 15, eight days before the election.  Elections for the council are held every five years.

The Chief Rabbinate Council is the supreme public religious body in Israel, entrusted with determining policy on many religious issues.  It comprises 16 rabbis: Six permanent members - the two Chief Rabbis of Israel, and the Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Be'er Sheva - and ten other rabbis.  It is these last ten seats that will be filled in the coming elections.

Be'er Sheva was Israel's fourth-largest city when the relevant law was passed, but Rishon LeTzion, Ashdod and Petach Tikvah have since passed it in size.  Despite this, the law has not been changed, and the council continues to reserve membership for the rabbi of Be'er Sheva.

The IDF's Chief Rabbi has observer status on the Chief Rabbinate Council.

The elections will be held on the 23rd of Elul in the Chief Rabbinate headquarters in Beit Yahav in Jerusalem.  The voting body comprises 150 leading Rabbinic and public figures, including 30 municipal and local chief rabbis, 10 rabbinic court judges, 30 mayors and heads of Regional Councils, five Knesset Members, and 15 heads of local religious councils.  Eighty of the 150 are rabbis.

All ten of the incumbent members of the council - five Ashkenazim and five Sephardim - reportedly plan to run for re-election. These include Rehovot's Chief Rabbi Simcha Kook, Migdal Ha'emek's Chief Rabbi Yitzchak David Grossman, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu of Tzfat, Rabbi Ratzon Arusi of Kiryat Ono, and Rabbi Yitzchak Peretz of Raanana.

In addition, Rabbi Tzefaniah Drori of Kiryat Shmonah, Rabbi David Stav of Shoham, Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weiss of Emek Hefer/Kfar HaRoeh, and Merkaz HaRav's Dean Rabbi Yaakov Shapira are in the running.

The Tzohar Rabbis Organization has announced its support for Rabbis Eliyahu and Stav, praising the cooperation between the two.  Tzohar is a group of religious-Zionist rabbis who "share the goal of building bridges between the world of Torah Judaism and the community at large," its website states.

Tzohar announced that it sees the upcoming elections as an "important and fateful chance to influence the Jewish character of the State of Israel.  The Chief Rabinate is a particularly influential body in this area, and since Judaism belongs not only to the religious but to all of Israel's Jewish citizens, the choice of members on the council is of great importance."

The organization calls on the members of the voting body to consider the following points when making their decision:

* The Chief Rabbinate derives its authority from traditional Jewish Law and tradition, as well as from the public that chose it, and operates out of recognition of the State of Israel and its institutions.  It must deal with various issues concerning the Jewish character of the State, from the ethical and social underpinnings that stem from the Torah, the Prophets, and Jewish Law, with Klal Yisrael ('entire Community of Israel') considerations.  

* The Rabbinate must promote love of Israel, and love of the foreigner. 

* It must work to build a framework of conversion according to Jewish Law that brings near those who have joined Israeli society, with a responsibility to Klal Yisrael.

* It must strive to increase Jews' desire to marry according to Jewish Law, and to address the matter of those who cannot establish a home in the framework of Jewish Law.  Rabbi Stav, contacted by IsraelNationalNews, explained that the reference is to the 300,000 non-Jews who are not registered as having any religion.  "If we don't give an answer to all these people who live here and allow them to marry each other, then the situation will explode and there will be civil marriages in the whole country." He emphasized that he was not referring to Jews who are not permitted to marry specific types of women.

* The Chief Rabbinate must address issues of agunot and those who use divorce as a tool for their own profit; public kashrut; Torah education; public medicine; and more.  It must also offer itself as an address for consultation for the Knesset.