Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, has come out in support of Rabbi David Stav for Israel's chief rabbi, adding that he is concerned the Chief Rabbinate may continue to alienate Jews who have undergone Modern-Orthodox conversion in the United States.
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Rabbi Stav, a religious Zionist Orthodox rabbi and chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical association, is among the candidates to become Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel.
Foxman thinks U.S. Jews have been more involved in the current race for chief rabbi than any other, he said at a seminar for Israeli journalists held by the Ruderman Family Foundation. He added that this involvement wasn't necessarily carried out publicly, for fear that Israelis would think American Jews were interfering in domestic issues. However, he said, there has been more involvement in the current rabbinate race than any in the past 30 or 40 years.
About two months ago, Rabbi Stav arrived in the U.S. as a guest of U.S. Jewish leaders and groups, and successfully raised funds for his campaign. He was supposed to return to the States for another trip but canceled.
Foxman said that as long as the rabbinate continues to make decisions that affect world Jewry, especially the American Jewish community, his hope is that whoever becomes chief rabbi holds progressive, liberal views and respects different streams of Judaism.
When asked if he is referring to Rabbi Stav, he said, mainly Rabbi Stav, adding that the race isn’t only about supporting positive candidates but also rejecting candidates who are racist or biased. He appeared to be referring to Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, which the ADL has come out against. Rabbi Eliyahu allegedly made racist remarks against Arabs and gays in the past.
Foxman also commented on the High Court of Justice decision to allow Rabbi Eliyahu to run for the post of Sephardi chief rabbi, saying that once his record becomes increasingly exposed, it would affects his chances of success.
In a statement released in June, the ADL condemned harsh attacks against Rabbi Stav: "Ever since Rabbi Stav launched his campaign for the chief rabbinate, he has been subjected to withering and repeated verbal attacks, including statements by Shas political leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who in his weekly address suggested that Rabbi Stav 'does not have the fear of God' and is 'dangerous to Judaism.'"
“There is no room for hateful statements in the public discourse surrounding candidates for chief rabbi in Israel’s democracy. It jeopardizes the value of free and open dialogue in Israeli society,” Foxman said at the time. “When hate-filled and derogatory statements come from senior rabbis, it can fuel and legitimize verbal and even physical attacks. Let’s keep the discussion focused on the important political and social issues facing the chief rabbinate and the State of Israel.”