“It’s always going to be an Orthodox rabbi,” maintained Navon, “but couples will be free to seek an Orthodox rabbi with a sunnier disposition.”
Over the years, many in Israel have criticized the fact that the Chief Rabbinate has become populated with ever-more Haredi officials in high office, while the Haredi population rarely depends on the Rabbinate for religious services, and are known to shun its kosher certification. At the same time, those Israelis, modern Orthodox and secular, who do seek those services, are being governed by public servants who are far to their right.
“There are complex processes taking place at the Chief Rabbinate,” said Navon. “On the one hand you see this Haredization of the rabbinate. On the other hand, even today, there are open channels and cooperation on several issues between the chief rabbis and the rabbis of Religious Zionism.”
Rabbi Navon says National Religious rabbis have not given up on the chief rabbinate. “I think we should help the chief rabbinate help itself,” he said. “They should be truly the chief rabbinate of klal Israel.”
Comparing the complete absence of a chief rabbinate for U.S. Jews, which exist, more or less, in autonomous communities and congregations, Rabbi Navon said he would not trade Israel’s rabbinate for what appears like a complete freedom of religious choices in America.
“In Israel’s context such a situation would have dire consequences in two areas,” said Navon. “One area is the Jewish character of the state, where the rabbinate’s authority is anchored in state law; the other is the fact that in America religious services are exorbitantly expensive. We don’t wish to reach a reality in which a person must take out a mortgage to bury a loved one.”