Candidate for Chief Rabbi Distances Himself From Secular Support Ads

Rabbi David Stav of the moderate Tzohar organization says chief rabbi should be elected because of 'love of Israel and respect for the bible, not newspaper ads.'

Rabbi David Stav distanced himself Monday from ads supporting his candidacy to the post of Israel's chief rabbi. Stav, chairman of the Tzohar organization, a group of moderate orthodox rabbis, announced that he did not approve of the ads published in recent weeks in newspapers and websites, and requested that their publication be halted.

The ads feature Stav's image, surrounded by red hearts and slogans such as "Everybody's Rabbi," and are signed by "the secular headquarters for bringing hearts together."

Stav is running a well-organized campaign which includes operation of the "Rabbi Stav headquarters," a PR office and strategic political advisors. Still these ads, published by a group of businessman with whom he is in touch, were not authorized by his campaign managers and according to sources close to Stav, their content and style caused him embarrassment.

The ads include severe criticism of the Chief Rabbinate, calling it a "corrupt body controlled by a Lithuanian Haredi minority," and refer viewers to a Facebook page supporting Stav's candidacy entitled "The Rabbinate interests my grandmother." The Facebook page features a musical passage praising Stav, narrated by well-known disk jockey Dori Ben Zeev.

According to Stav's associates, a group of businessmen, including Eran Rolls, chairman of the Israel Building Center Group, recently presented Stav with an "award for his contribution to society." At the ceremony Rolls said that Stav is "a great figure, a role model, a man who broke new ground in the Zionist-religious movement."

Stav informed Rolls and his associates in advance that he intends to distance himself from the support ads.

According to Stav's statement on Monday he "wishes to clarify that he did not approve the ads, and requested that their publication be halted immediately since they cause inconvenience to his family and himself. Rabbi Stav wishes to state that he is indeed pleased with public's awareness as to the influence of the Chief Rabbinate on the future of Israel and Israeli society but, nonetheless, this discussion should be held in terms of values and morals. The decision as to who should head the Chief Rabbinate should be reached from a standpoint of the love of Israel and respect for the bible, not by newspaper ads."

Still, despite Stav's request, another ad appeared today with the slogan: "I love my Rabbi."

Gil Cohen-Magen