Rabbi David Stav
Rabbi David Stav Yoni Kempinski

At a press conference Monday, Rabbi Stav, one of the leading candidates for position of Chief Rabbi of Israel, reassured Israelis that he was fully committed to halakha (Jewish law) and that he would not introduce “laxities” into religious life, as some apparently think we will. However, he said, he felt he could make an important contribution to Israeli society, because of his work in Tzohar. 

“There are hundreds of thousands of people who want their children to marry according to Jewish law, because they are Jewish,” Rabbi Stav said, referring to thousands of converts and would-be converts from the former Soviet Union who wish to find proof to their Judaism. “We just need to help them prove their Jewishness. We want to help them,” he said.

However, he pointed out, “we are fully committed to halakha, religious law, and we will not compromise on this even a millimeter. As a rabbi, I am fully committed to halakha. As such, I would not accept conversions done by Conservative or Reform rabbis.” Despite that, he added, there were many things that needed to be done within the confines of halakha to make Orthodox conversion more accessible.

“We come to this contest with our record in Tzohar,” Rabbi Stav said. “We come with our record as the Chief Rabbi of the city of Shoham,” a position he currently holds. “Most of the people in Shoham are not religious, yet every restaurant and bakery in the city is kosher – meaning that all of them also keep Shabbat.” That, Rabbi Stav said, is something he wanted to see happen across Israel.

There is a major debate going on in the religious Zionist world as to who would be the best candidate for Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi – Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, the Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan, or Rabbi David Stav, head of the Tzohar outreach organization, known chiefly for its work with secular Israelis.

The candidacy of Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, head of the flagship religious Zionist Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav has also been suggested by many mainstream religious Zionist rabbis, but he deferred to Rabbi Ariel until the so-called Ariel-Amar law (allowing the candidacy of thoseover 70 to run) was shelved. Rabbi Eliezer Igra, Rabbinic Judge and former head of Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva, is also a candidate with support of mainstream rabbis.

Rabbi Stav's candidacy is, since Sunday, officially supported by the Bayit Yehudi party as well as by Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid and Tzipi Livni's Ha'Tnuah.