Rabbi Stav (left) with Rabbi Halevy
Rabbi Stav (left) with Rabbi HalevyPR photo

The Tzohar rabbinic organization has undertaken an ambitious campaign to connect the Chief Rabbinate to the Israeli public. by suggesting improvements and publicizing the Rabbinate's projects.  A document that has been circulating in recent days details the group’s plan of action.

One step Tzohar would see taken is to see the Rabbinate appoint only rabbinic court justices (dayanim) who respect Chief Rabbinate rulings and agree to implement them in court. This is predicated on the belief that there are dayanim who do not do that.

Another would create a new pool of Torah learners who would offer a halakhic (Jewish legal) opinion on laws proposed in Knesset, now being done by various halakhic centers of learning and individual rabbis as well as the Rabbinate itself.

The group also hopes to encourage prenuptial contracts aimed at causing economic damage to husbands who deny their wives a halakhic (Jewish legal) divorce, a goal being advanced by Orthodox women's groups such as Emunah and Kolech.

A third change would see the Rabbinate publicly encouraging conversion to Judaism among the offspring of mixed Jewish/non-Jewish marriages where the mother is non-Jewish. This is the tacit policy of conversion dayanim since the start of Russian aliya as those offspring have Jewish names and many thought they were halakhically Jewish and suffered for it in Russia.

Yet another clause would see the creation of a unified standard of kosher supervision among all Rabbinate rabbis and would end the employer-employee relationship between restaurant owners and kosher supervisors.

Tzohar is asking for the public’s input, as well. The organization is running a survey on its Facebook page to see what its readers view as the most important function of the Rabbinate.

“As a student of Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, the son of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook, during my time in the Merkaz Harav yeshiva I was imbued with a sense of the importance of the Rabbinate and of preserving its status in order to bolster Israel’s identity as a Jewish state,” said Rabbi David Stav, Tzohar Chairman..

Rabbi Stav called to “update [the Rabbinate] and its activity in order to suit the Israeli public and its needs, and not just the religious public…." In his opinion, "the situation is painful. It is a situation in which more and more couples marry abroad, businesses prefer not to bother with kosher certification, and converts face unnecessary difficulties.

“If this continues,” he warned, “it will lead to the de-facto split of the state from religion.”

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook was famous for saying that the truly righteous do not criticize, they simply act to improve matters.