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February 13, 2013 5:51 pm

Modern Orthodox Rabbi Seeks to Change Israeli Rabbinate

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The modern Orthodox Rabbi David Stav is seeking to succeed Rabbi Yona Metzger (pictured), the current Israeli Ashkenazi chief rabbi. Photo: PikiWiki Israel.

Amid the surprising Israeli election results that empowered political parties calling for a change to the ultra-Orthodox’s grip on Jewish life, a reform-minded modern Orthodox rabbi has launched a campaign to become the next Ashkenazi chief rabbi, the Associated Press reported.

Rabbi David Stav, a 52-year-old father of nine and chairman of the Tzohar organization, a group of moderate Orthodox rabbis, has launched an aggressive and highly visible campaign utilizing TV and newspaper interviews as well as social media to spread his message. He believes the current rabbinate, which is controlled by Israel’s ultra-Orthodox, alienates Israel’s secular majority.

“It’s not about public relations and niceness,” Stav told the Associated Press. “There is a critical problem—it’s not cosmetic—in the rabbinic system. It needs dramatic changes.”

Israel’s current Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, Yona Metzger, will be vacating his post in the upcoming months. A panel of 150 rabbis and politicians will appoint the next chief rabbi. With the election success of the centrist Yesh Atid and national religious HaBayit HaYehudi—who both call for reforms to Israel’s rabbinate—Stav may get the necessary political support.

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Stav’s candidacy also comes at a time when tensions between Israel’s ultra-Orthodox religious establishment and the more liberal American Jewry are increasing.

“I think Rabbi Stav is trying to be more inclusive, more compassionate and more sensitive to Jews of all backgrounds and make the rabbinate in Israel more user-friendly and more approachable,” said Rabbi Moshe Scheiner after Stav spoke at the modern Orthodox Palm Beach Synagogue last month, the Palm Beach Daily News reported.

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