Rabbi David Lau, the chief rabbi of Modi’in and son of former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, said Wednesday he was “seriously considering” running for the post of chief Ashkenazi rabbi.
Lau, who has not announced his candidacy officially, said that if elected, he could be “everybody’s rabbi,” not merely the ultra-Orthodox community’s rabbi.
Lau has recently been talking to politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is close to his father, and Wednesady received the blessing of leading Haredi Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky for his campaign.
He has also been in touch with Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Lithuanian community, and said the latter supports him as well.
In the Haredi community these blessings are extremely significant. But Lau, whose father served both as chief rabbi and chief Tel Aviv rabbi, says he must not be seen as the Haredi community’s candidate and claims he can be “everybody’s rabbi.”
“Think for a moment,” he told Haaretz in a telephone interview. “Not many rabbis can open the morning with a daily Torah lesson, then sit with a couple from Russia, about to be married, to help them ascertain their Jewishness, then sit in Bnei Brak with Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky and travel to Sderot’s hesder [army-affiliated] yeshiva to give a lesson there. This is the kind of variety required of a rabbi who can serve all of Israel.”
“Rabbi David Lau is our chief rabbi! (Yes, yes, and we’re all knitted kippa wearers and some of us voted for Habayit Hayehudi),” Lau’s Facebook page said Wednesday.
Lau, 47, says he is convinced he can be “everyone’s rabbi, rather than a candidate fielded by one party,” which he says isn’t even completely sold on the idea. This was a barb aimed at Habayit Hayehudi, which this week declared Stav to be its candidate for the Chief Rabbinate without securing all its members’ agreement.
Stav, who is seen as a leading candidate for the Chief Rabbinate, is supported by other Knesset factions as well, but not the Likud.
Haim Bibas, mayor of Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut and a confidant of Netanyahu, is campaigning for Lau, as are figures in the Haredi parties.
Haaretz reported last week that Netanyahu prefers Lau to Stav as Ashkenazi chief rabbi.
Stressing again his ability to be “everyone’s rabbi,” Lau told Haaretz yesterday that “the prime minister and his people appreciate this fact.”
Lau criticized the plan to reform the Chief Rabbinate that Stav outlined at a news conference in his Shoham home this week.
“I didn’t hear it all, but one thing I heard was half a sentence he said on the radio,” Lau said. “He was asked what the change would be, and he said opening marriage registration zones and enabling people to register for marriage a year in advance instead of three months. If I were interviewing him, I’d have asked, ‘and that’s it?
That’s what all the noise was about?’
“If we’re dealing with marriage registration, here in Modi’in we’ve uploaded a software program that can be applied to the whole country, Lau continued. “Anyone can open a file in the rabbinate from home, on the Internet, and then just come to the rabbi to sign. This will also enable issuing marriage certificates swiftly.
“In Modi’in,” he said, “we make it easier on the public no less than anywhere else. On the one hand there’s a large non-religious, opinionated community here, on the other hand there’s a very large religious Zionist community. The ultra-Orthodox and religious Zionists who incline toward the Haredi way of life feel they have a rabbinate here they can come to. This model can be replicated nationwide.”
Lau has yet to answer all the difficult questions pertaining to the Chief Rabbinate, such as its purpose in current Israeli life and the power struggle raging around it.
“I haven’t started my campaign yet and haven’t made a final decision to run,” Lau insisted. “At this stage I’m receiving many supporting reactions and I’m seriously considering it.”