Tzohar launches campaign to reform Chief Rabbinate

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Tzohar Rabbinical Organization has launched a public information campaign designed to encourage a new approach to religious leadership within the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

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The campaign, which was launched Friday, includes newspaper and bus advertisements, as well as a mission statement outlining the organization’s vision for a revised Chief Rabbinate, which will be distributed to more than 200,000 people over the weekend. 

Among the items that Tzohar is calling for will be to elect new rabbinical court judges who would be more open to the needs of the general public, not just the religiously observant sectors; and new guidelines for managing the marriage, divorce and conversion processes in Israel – three areas that have been particularly notorious in alienating the secular community.
 
“The Israeli public demands a rabbinate that responds to the needs of all Israelis and not just those of specific segments within society,” Tzohar President Rabbi David Stav said in a statement. “We need to wake up and say that now is the time to make substantial changes in the structure and mandate of the rabbinate so that it becomes an agency that is relevant for each and every Jew who calls Israel home.

“As a result of the policies of the Chief Rabbinate restaurants across the country are foregoing kosher supervision, obstacles are being placed in front of people interested in halachic conversions and more and more Israelis are opting for a non-Jewish marriage ceremony abroad,“ Stav added.  “With this growing wave of assimilation and abandonment of Jewish tradition, the result will be a de facto detachment between the State of Israel and its Jewish identity.” 

The campaign was launched on the yartzheit of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the historic founder of the Chief Rabbinate and widely regarded as the founding father of religious Zionism. 

Tzohar, which helps to involve non-religious couples and their families in religious wedding ceremonies – marrying about 3,000 couples a year free of charge, had been embroiled in a fight with the Chief Rabbinate over the service. Earlier this summer, the Chief Rabbinate agreed to lift restrictions on rabbis from Tzohar from conducting weddings. In return, Tzohar pledged to withdraw a lawsuit against the Rabbinate and to try to stop legislation that would have taken away the Rabbinate’s hegemony over who conducts marriages.
 

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