MK Uri Orbach
MK Uri OrbachIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Minister of Pensioners Affairs Uri Orbach of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) faction has declared his support for Rabbi David Stav in the race for Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel.

In a Facebook post Monday night, Orbach announced that he backs Rabbi Stav despite recent efforts from other Bayit Yehudi members to prevent his election in favor of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel.

“Despite all the political deals, the urgent meetings, the threats both overt and covert, Rabbi Stav is a great and learned rabbi, religious-Zionist, committed to the people of Israel and the state of Israel, a graduate of our wonderful schools, with plans to increase love of Torah and to connect the Rabbinate to the people,” Orbach wrote.

“Yes, in the spirit of Tzohar, Heaven protect us,” he added sarcastically. Rabbi Stav is a co-founder of Tzohar, which aims to make Judaism and Jewish life cycle events in particular more accessible and user friendly to non-religious Israeli Jews. Many respected, mainstream rabbis are against his candidacy partly because they feel he is raising hopes that he cannot fulfill on halakhic issues that cannot be changed. They do not see the post of Chief Rabbi as a populist decision, but one to be made mainly by rabbinic experts, as in other fields of expertise.

Rabbi Stav’s open approach “is what the overwhelming majority of the public, including many rabbis who give their quiet support, and most of our voters want from us,” Orbach said.

He added, “We have to ask ourselves now who will take the lead in religious-Zionist politics: the rabbis (and their aides) or politicians? Who are religious politicians responsible to – only to the rabbis (with their estimated political strength) or to the broader public of voters? To me, the answer is as clear as ever.”