The Jewish Home party officially endorsed Rabbi David Stav as its candidate for Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel on Sunday, after months of bitter political infighting over who would get the party’s backing.
Rabbi Stav’s candidacy has split the party. As chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical association and a liberalizing figure within the national-religious community, he was fiercely opposed by the more traditional group of Rabbis associated with the party, and particularly with the Tekuma bloc, which is part of Jewish Home.
Tzohar advocates “opening Judaism to all Jews,” and has often supported halachic leniencies that have been rejected by the Chief Rabbinate and Rabbanim from across the spectrum, including senior Rabbanim of the national religious sector.
On the other hand, Rabbi Stav had the support of Jewish Home chairman and Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, as well as secular party leaders Yair Lapid, Tzipi Livni, and Avigdor Lieberman.
The Tekuma faction wanted Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan, for the post, but aside from political obstacles, his age, 76, was a problem, since the legal age limit for candidates stands at 70. His candidacy would have necessitated changing the law.
He was supported by Rabbi Chaim Druckman, Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba, Rabbi Tzefaniah Drori of Kiryat Shemoneh and others.
Bennett hailed the decision as the fulfillment of “our promise to the voters … to be a bridge between religious and secular people in Israel.”