Rabbi Stav, head of Tzohar.
Rabbi Stav, head of Tzohar.Yoni Kempinski

A group of 12 rabbis published a letter to the Tzohar rabbinic organization, which acts as an alternative to the Chief Rabbinate, publicly admonishing them for working against the Chief Rabbinate and deceiving the public. These rabbis originally joined Tzohar's marriage initiative, which ran in cooperation with the Chief Rabbinate but have subsequently resigned due to their opposition to the organization's other activities.

"[Tzohar] has been involved over the years in many activities in the name of all the rabbis which are not accepted by the majority of the rabbis of Israel," the rabbis wrote. "It has done all this, even without any internal discussion among the rabbis of the organization and without a majority decision process. This situation has continued for a long time and has caused frustration among the rabbis, and strong internal criticism. This has caused the senior rabbis of Religious Zionism, led by the president of the organization, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, to resign from the organization and some of them have even strongly criticized [Tzohar]."

"It seems the organization began to openly act against the Chief Rabbinate, which is the spiritual center of Israel and rules on matters [of Jewish law] for the Jewish people and the characteristics of the state of Israel as a Jewish state. The weakening of the Chief Rabbinate's power and independence can pose a real danger of causing Israel to become a state for all citizens."

"All this was done first and foremost by launching a private kashrut initiative, which has been criticized by rabbis - from all the great rabbis of the generation (former president Rabbi Ya'akov Ariel even forbids eating in places supervised by the Tzohar). On the other hand, it was enthusiastically received by Reform organizations and other organizations which fight against the Jewish identity of Israel."

Toward the end of the letter, the rabbis complained about Tzohar's use of the public legitimacy they gained through the wedding initiative, although they say an overwhelming majority of the participating rabbis do not support the organization's leadership. "The use of public legitimacy afforded to Tzohar through the wedding initiative creates a misrepresentation that there are supposedly many rabbis who stand behind actions which reflect the position of a very small minority."

"The practice described above is in fact the backdrop for our retirement from the organization (at various stages over the last few years) out of the feeling that it has reached a point of intolerability."

"We therefore appeal to you and expect that this conduct, which is clearly a public deception, will be stopped by you immediately, and that you end any activity which harms the Chief Rabbinate of Israel."

The Tzohar Organization responded: "First of all, many of the signatories to the letter were never members of the Tzohar rabbis' organization. Others have not been linked to Tzohar for more than ten years. Secondly, we respect every person for their positions. At the same time, it is strange that during a week when a suspect in bribing a senior rabbinical kashrut system was indicted, these rabbis choose to criticize those who seek to improve the kashrut system. Strangely, these rabbis are protecting a kashrut system that most rabbis in Israel do not trust themselves and are only demanding for themselves an exclusive monopoly."

"In the last year, Tzohar's kashrut system was joined by hundreds of restaurants and businesses that had been open on Shabbat and sold non-kosher food and are now closed on Shabbat and are kosher. The Tzohar Organization will continue to promote Jewish identity in the State of Israel in the field of marriage and kashrut and a wide range of other areas for raising Jewish and Israeli esteem in Israel and outside of it."