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December 2, 2015 / 20 Kislev, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Tzohar’

Revolution: Knesset Approves Marriage for Straight Couples

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

The Israeli Parliament has embarked on a revolution last night, approving a bill that will permit Jewish couples to get married anywhere they wish to in Israel. Our readers abroad may find this hard to believe, but for its first 65 years, the state of Israel, where Religious weddings are also state weddings, required the happy couples to get married only in their town of residence. (See: Revolutionary Marriage Reform Law Spells End to Haredi Domination)

If that reminds you of olden times, when the vassals were not permitted to wonder away from their huts outside their feudal master’s castle, you are absolutely correct. Just like that feudal, who was also ordained by the grace of the Almighty, your local religious council owns you, cradle to grave. And since, over the past three decades, Israel’s Rabbinate has been dominated by Haredim, the result was that secular and non-Haredi Israeli Jews—the vast majority—had to submit to the rule of Haredi rabbis on every aspect of their personal lives.

It’s like Alice in Wonderland, but the Red Queen is wearing a shtreimel.

So, one of the things Minister of Religious Services Naftali Bennett (did you know he did that, too?) has been introducing changes to the religious-feudal system, and the new law, which is already being tested in 5 pilot projects, will enable Israeli couples seeking to tie the knot (we actually don’t do that in Jewish law) to pick whichever rabbi in any municipality to perform their ceremony.

The rabbinic organization Tzohar, which has been laboring for years to undo the damage so many rabbis and laymen, Haredi and otherwise, have inflicted on the psyche of secular Israelis, is ecstatic. They seem to think that the new law will encourage competition, and that rabbis now will have to adopt a pleasant bedside manner in order to make a living. Can you imagine that? They’ll have to answer the phone, schedule speedy hearings, treat people sweetly, offer creative solutions in problematic cases – in other words, care for their clients, because their no longer captive. That’s enough to drive a Haredi rabbi crazy!

Indeed, United Torah Judaism MK Uri Maklev said the knitted yarmulke MKs were promoting the new law because they are unaware of “the scope of its damage.”

But that was polite. UTJ MK Moshe Gafni, attacking the new law from the Knesset podium, said Jewish Home, pushing the new revolution, were “a shame to the Jewish nation.”

“You’re not religious,” he said, having recently had a meeting with God, who gave him the list. “You’re going to break up the entire marriage registration process.”

He also decried the damage the new law will inflict on so many rabbis, all of it in order “to be liked” by the secular Israelis and hold on to their Knesset seats.

MK Gafni has long embraced the tactic of when in doubt – throw a tantrum. But sources in the knitted yarmulke camp are also unhappy about the new law, which, essentially, deposits the authority on the validity of one’s Jewish identity in local hands – away from the centralized Rabbinate control. Each religious council in Israel has its own marriage registration department, where they deal with issues like the validity of conversions, or the current marital status of applicants. Until the new law was in effect, if there was a problematic marriage registration office in some municipality—too permissive or too strict—it could be dealt with by the Rabbinate on a town by town basis.

But now every religious council is in competition with all the other religious councils in the country. If a particular local rabbi gets a reputation for going easy on converts—he could print his own money, because folks will flock to him and happily pay the registration fee.

Yes, the new law absolutely creates financial incentives to go easy on “problem” marriages.

The thing is, MK Gafni should have stood on the podium and clap al-chet (pound his chest) to confess and regret how decades of malicious abuse by the Haredi establishment have brought on this revolution (remember the mass-revoking of conversions only a few years ago—that kind of abuse). Now the integrity of Jewish identity in Eretz Israel is in the hands—and the pockets—of thousands of local community rabbis.

I choose to trust that He who watches over all our very silly actions on this planet will watch over our local marriage registrations as well. I certainly trust Him more than I do MK Moshe Gafni.

Revolutionary Marriage Reform Law Spells End to Haredi Domination

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

The Knesset voted Monday night in favor of a bill sponsored by the Jewish Home party that in effect breaks the grip of Haredi rabbis on marriage permits in the country. It easily passed on second and third readings in the Knesset with the only opposition coming from Haredi Knesset Members.

The “Tzohar Law,” named after the organization of modern orthodox rabbis who have been vying for more influence in the country’s religious establishment, will allow couples to register for marriages anywhere they want.

The change is not minor. Certain cities are known to be a nightmare for couples who are often faced with local rabbis’ extreme demands concerning their being Jewish, their lifestyles, and also touching on customs that vary in different communities, such Sephardi and Ashkenazi, and which are not required to be observed by everyone.

One rabbi who has performed dozens if not hundreds of marriages told The Jewish Press that one city, which is not being named here in order not to blemish its name, is a known problem because of local Haredi rabbis’ conditions that often are “unreasonable.”

Now that a prospective bride and groom can register wherever they want, Haredi rabbis will lose any influence, good or bad, they once had over secular and non-Haredi religious couples. If the Haredi establishment had been a bit more flexible in the past decade, it could have won the respect of tens of thousands of Jews who might have been swayed to become more observant.

Instead, their insensitivity to Israeli’s desire for tradition without coercion has cost them their dominance and has allowed modern orthodox rabbis to take over as much more widely accepted role models.

The winners of the new law are the Tzohar rabbis and the Jewish Home Party, which is rapidly shaking off its predecessor’s National Religious Party stigma of representing only observant Jews and those that believe that Jewish development in Judea and Samaria is the only important issue for the country.

The party has attracted non-observant supporters with an election platform that supported civil marriages, and the Tzohar law is bound to attract more non-religious supporters who want to marry according to Jewish law without having to be subservient to Haredi rabbis’ ultimatums.

“We have opened the religious services market, “ said Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett.

The Tzohar rabbis recently lost an important battle with the Haredi establishment, which elected Rabbi David Lau as Chief Ashkenazi rabbi instead of Tzohar Rabbi David Stav.

The new law will also create a computerized database for the registrations, making the records accessible to all of the registrars.

Want a Tzohar Rabbi for the Wedding? Avoid Petach Tikvah

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The Religious Council of Petach Tikvah, located next to Tel Aviv, is generally known to give problems for couple wanting to get married by modern orthodox rabbis registered with the Tzohar organization, a rabbi told The Jewish Press Thursday.

Responding to the reported plight of a young man whose request for a certificate that he is single was rejected by the Petach Tikvah Religious Council, the rabbi, who has performed dozens of weddings, explained that the council is known for giving modern orthodox men a hard time.  He added that the rejection had nothing to do with the election loss  two weeks ago of Tzohar Rabbi David Stav to Haredi Rabbi David Lau

The Petach Council reportedly rejected the prospective groom’s request for a certificate because he opened a file with Tzohar. The Council tried to explain that the young man did not bring with him the required documents and that his wanting to be married by a Tzohar rabbi was irrelevant.

The rabbi who spoke with The Jewish Press suggested that the prospective groom travel to the nearby city of Shoham, where there is no problem with the Rabbinate.

Many Haredi rabbis on religious councils resent the growing popularity of Tzohar



Ex-Mossad Chief Backs Move to ID Soviet Jews

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Ephraim HaLevy, former chief of the Mossad, has committed himself to a program which will help certify the Jewish identities of thousands of immigrants, primarily from the former Soviet Union, who need certifications that they are Jewish in order to marry under official Israeli law. The announcement came at the annual meeting of the Shorashim (Roots) program, an initiative of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization. HaLevy was officially announced as the program’s Incoming chairman. Shorashim is backed by the Harry Triguboff Foundation based in Sydney, Australia, together with the Friedberg Charitable Foundation of Toronto, Canada and with funding from the government of Israel. The program operates out of offices in Moscow and Kiev, and the first center in Israel to assist couples with the identification process was opened last week in the presence of Triguboff.

Prof. Ze’ev Khanin, Chief Scientist of Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, told the meeting that since the fall of the Soviet Union, more than one million people have immigrated to Israel. Accounting for natural demographic patterns compounded with a certain percentage of people who chose to leave Israel of their own initiative, approximately 975,000 people living in Israel today describe themselves as of Russian origin.

“For years we were imploring these Jews to come home to Israel and now we’re going to reject them because they can’t easily prove their Jewish ancestry?” HaLevy asked. “There is an answer and that is what this program offers, but if we don’t commit ourselves to it then we’ll go down as the biggest traitors in Jewish history.”

The process often involves sending emissaries into archives and cemeteries in tiny Russian and Ukrainian villages to obtain the levels of proof necessary to determine that an immigrant to Israel is of certain Jewish ancestry. Once procured, the documentation is then presented to Israeli rabbinical courts before an individual’s proof of Judaism can be confirmed.

Rabbi David Stav, the founder and president of Tzohar and also the national religious candidate for the position of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, told the meeting, “We can’t even begin to comprehend the value of what is being done here and this is truly a historic effort.”

Couples not afforded the assistance offered by Shorashim often will enter marriage without halachic approval, a situation which effectively would define their children as non-Jews under Israeli law. Those who are determined not to be of Jewish descent are provided with support to convert under rabbinic guidance.

Rav Ovadia Calls Tzohar Rav Stav ‘Evil’; Tzohar Replies: Repent

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Revered Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a spiritual head of the Shas party and a former Chief Rabbi, castigated Chief Rabbinate candidate Rabbi David Stav in unprecedented terms Saturday night, calling him “evil” and a “danger to Judaism.”

The Tzohar rabbinical group responded by calling on Rav Ovadia, who by all accounts is one of the most brilliant Torah sages today, to “repent” and “ask for forgiveness.”

The epithets  by Rav Ovadia may boomerang and give Rabbi Stav sympathy support that could make him Israel’s next Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi.

They also give anti-religious Jews, both inside Israel and in the Diaspora, plenty of ammunition to fire back in their campaign against leaving authority for Israel’s religious affairs in the hands of orthodox Jews, Haredi or not. One can hear the refrain already, “And you call these people spiritual leaders?”

Rabbi Benny Lau, a national religious rabbi and the nephew of former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, told Voice of Israel public radio that despite Rabbi Ovadia’s constant antagonistic comments in  his weekly Saturday night sermons, he once realized the greatness of the man when he spoke  with him in person.

But Saturday night’ wild attack on Rabbi Stav left Rabbi Lau without any explanation for his behavior.

Rav Ovadia’s weekly speeches are often geared for his Sephardi audience, many of whom see themselves as having been discriminated against for decades under the domineering thumb of Ashkenazi rabbis for years.

Even taking that into account, Rabbi Lau’s inability to explain Rabbi Ovadia’s venom points in one direction: Aryeh Deri, the Rav’s favorite political leader and who rules the Shas political party.

Deri has been trying to torpedo a bill that would allow Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar to seek a second term. The reasoning is that since he is Haredi, his selection would create more pressure to accept a non-Haredi Ashkenazi rabbi.

Deri, a crackerjack if not ruthless politician, simply had to turn to his trusted rabbi, Rav Ovadia, to help make sure Rabbi Amar will not be selected and thereby prevent the election of Rabbi Stav.

It is open to question how much Deri and other aides close to Rav Ovadia have sheltered him from reality and have fed him the news they want him to read.

Regardless of who is to blame, when a  rabbi, especially one as distinguished as Rav Ovadia, states that appointing another rabbi to the Chief Rabbinate is like bringing idolatry in the Holy Temple, it only takes a look at the calendar to realize how deep and slimy the pit into which the campaign for Chief Rabbi has fallen.

Next week, Jews being the tradition “three weeks of mourning” that concludes with Tisha B’Av, marking the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

The Second Temple is said to have fallen because of “loshon haRa,” literally the “evil tongue” by which Jews slander other Jews.

The Tzohar rabbinical organization accused Rav Ovadia of doing just that and accused Rav Ovadia of incitement.

When respected rabbis feel the need to call on a rabbi as revered as Rav Ovadia to “repent,” it is clear something is not kosher.

Rabbi Stav has conducted an unprecedented self-promotional campaign to become Chief Rabbi, but it can easily be argued there is no other way to change the outward face inward soul of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel that has managed to distance secular Jews instead of drawing them closer to Judaism.

In a pitiful understatement, aides to Rabbi Amar have charged that political elements are sowing the seeds of hatred between Torah sages.

The group of Tzohar Rabbis protested what they called the incitement of Rabbi Yosef against “another great rabbi in Israel whose entire life has been dedicated to love of the Torah by the People of Israel.. [His comments] prove the need for an urgent change in the Rabbinate of Israel.”

Shas officials insisted on the last word, which gets worse every time they speak. They  said it is “not respectful to respond to words of a heretic by people who call themselves rabbis but are worse than non-Jews.”

One Shas source, compared Rabbi Stav with Korach, who challenged  Moses’ authority and whose followers died when the ground opened up and buried them alive. ” When Rav Ovadia says he [Rabbi Stav]is evil, there is no need to explain,” said the source. Now , it is clear that all of them [Tzohar rabbis] are evil.”

New Chief Rabbi Appointment Pitting Bennett Against Lapid

Friday, April 19th, 2013

In Jewish Home circles they appear certain that the National Religious party’s candidate, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, will be the next appointed Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel. But Naftali Bennet’s BF Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party is not prepared to give them this one. In fact, Yesh Atid officials said on Thursday that they’re ready for an all out war in support of Rabbi David Stav for the post.

But the conflict between the two buddy factions is not just over who would end up as Chief Rabbi, but also over one of the illnesses of Israel’s legislative system, known as “personalized laws.” These are laws that are enacted for a singular, temporary purpose, which can only be done, seemingly, in a country without a binding constitution.

In this case, the Jewish Home faction’s candidate is over age 70, and so his backers are proposing a new law that would eliminate the age limit when it comes to appointing a Chief Rabbi.

This is exactly the kind of calloused approach to the law that Yesh Atid’s idealistic, middle-class voters hate with a passion.

Rabbi Ariel is the personification of Religious Zionism in Israel, possibly its most respected scholar. So much so, that Rabbi Stav, who gained popularity in Israel as founder and leader of Tzohar, a rabbinic organization seeking to integrate religious and secular Israelis, announced that should Rabbi Ariel run, he, Stav, would remove his candidacy.

But Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron, himself a product of Religious Zionism, said on Thursday that he spoke with Rabbi Ariel, and the latter does not consider himself a candidate for the job.

“I will oppose the law (to loft the age limit) in the government and the Knesset, and will do anything in my power to make sure it will not pass,” Piron said privately, as reported by Maariv. “This is not the proper way to choose a chief rabbi.”

MK Aliza Lavie, also of Yesh Atid, also opposes listing the age limit by tailor-made legislation. And she’s been a supporter of Rabbi Stav since before her election to the Knesset. “There is room to amend the Chief Rabbinate,” she said, “but not through personalized legislation.”

Incidentally, MK Lavie got under the skin of Haredi politicians (would that constitute negiah?) recently, when she proposed appointing a female “Morat Halacha” (halachic teacher) alongside the two chief rabbis. The title “Morat Halacha” is in use as an alternative to the “Rabbah” among the Conservative and Reform. There are about 70 certified, Orthodox, female Rabbinic Advocates, who are permitted to argue in front of rabbinic courts in Israel – perhaps one of them could be chief rebbetzen?

Meanwhile, Jewish Home pols are telling everyone that they’ve got this one in the bag, and their 76-years-old candidate has received the approval of Shas’ leader Rav Ovadia Yosef and, hence, a majority of the votes needed.

Personally, I like Rabbi Ariel’s credentials very much, but I’ve been truly excited by Rabbi Stav’s achievements in the most crucial area of religion and state in Israel – helping secular Israelis feel better about their tradition.

Meanwhile, MK Moshe Feiglin is proposing the elimination of the two-rabbi deal, no more separate Ashkenazi and Sephardi authorities, we’re no longer in diaspora, he argues, all we need is one Chief Rabbi.

But what about all the patronage jobs that go with the office? You have to think before you make those grand announcements, Feiglin – what about parnassah?

National Religious Rabbis Support Outsider for Chief Rabbi

Monday, December 17th, 2012

In the past, Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the Tzohar rabbinic organization and rabbi of the town of Shoham, has announced a number of times that he was considering throwing his hat in the ring, so to speak, for the position of Israel’s chief rabbi. recently, according to the Srugim website, Rabbi Stav has received support from senior National religious rabbis who pointed out that his Torah knowledge, personality and achievements, have led them to recommend him for this high post.

Back in 2010, in an interview he gave Maariv, Rabbi Stav was asked if the very existence of his organization, Tzohar, which is attempting to make up for the perceived failures of the chief rabbinate in communication with the secular Jews in Israel who require its services, might not be an indictment of a bankrupted chief rabbinate.

Choosing his words carefully, Rabbi Stav said that, ideally, Tzohar should have been invented by the Rabbinate, to improve its contact with and influence over the Israeli public at large.

“Sadly,” Stav said, “some elements are viewing us with a jaundiced eye and so they create a dispute between Tzohar and the chief rabbinate. We try our very best to avoid a division. We want there to be a chief rabbinate, but we must remember that the Haredim have no interest in the chief rabbinate, and neither do the secular. The only ones who are interested in it are the national religious, who are able to serve as a bridge between the secular and the religious.”

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, dean of the Ateret Kohanim yeshiva and the rabbi of the town of beit El has written: “Based on my many years’ acquaintance with Rabbi Stav Shlita, I support his candidacy for Chief Rabbi of Israel.”

In his letter, Rabbi Aviner notes that that Rabbi Stav is “a true scholar and a Torah giant,” and “has proven himself in great action on behalf of Torah and the nation.”

In conclusion, Rabbi Aviner writes that “Rabbi Stav understands the temperament of every person, National Religious or Haredi, secular and traditional, which is a dire need regarding the great vision of the chief rabbinate, that it belong to the entire nation.”

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenshtein, dean of the Har Etzion yeshiva, quotes Maimonides’ laws of the Sanhedrin which determine the prerequisite qualities of a member of the high court, from which Lichtenshtein deduces a fortiori that the task of finding a scholar befitting the role of chief rabbi is very difficult.

Rabbi Lichtenshtein concludes: “I view Rabbi Stav – out a deep and diverse personal acquaintance, as well as having worked together in several areas and on behalf of several communities – as most qualified to meet successfully the demands of this high office to the benefit of the public as a whole.”

Dean of Itamar yeshiva and former chief rabbi of the IDF Rabbi Avi Ronsky wrote: “I recommend Rabbi David Stav Shlita to the position of Israel’s chief rabbi. To begin with, Rabbi David is a scholar, an ordained rabbi and judge, serving as the rabbi of the town of Shoham and head of the Tzohar organization, known for its many good works among Israel’s multitudes to bring them closer to the Torah of Israel.

“I am certain that, with God’s help, Rabbi David with his pleasant demeanor will be able to forge anew reality in our nation, of respect and affection for Torah, and consequently a desire to know and keep it.”

An official at Tzohar said that these letters are but the tip of an iceberg in terms of the broad support Rabbi has been receiving from the entire spectrum of Israeli society: “We’ve been getting enormous support from religious Zionist rabbis, Haredi rabbis, top business people, and from the leaders of the Zionist parties who understand that the coming vote for the chief rabbinate is critical to the continuity of Jewish identity in the state of Israel, and if the chief rabbinate does not become the rabbinate of all of israel, including secular, traditional and religious, we’ll see the creation of two separate tribes who won’t share a common identity and culture.”

The election of the next chief rabbis will take place after the 19th Knesset is convened.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/national-religious-rabbis-support-outsider-for-chief-rabbi/2012/12/17/

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