Rabbinate candidate Stav attacked at wedding

Opponents surround and harass moderate rabbi in wake of scathing indictment by Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef

Rabbi David Stav, cofounder and chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical organization. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Rabbi David Stav, cofounder and chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical organization. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

A group of youths shoved Rabbi David Stav and hurled epithets at him at a wedding on Sunday evening, a day after Shas spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef unleashed a scathing verbal attack on the candidate for the post of Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

Stav was at the wedding of the daughter of Shmuel Rabinovitch, the rabbi of the Western Wall, when the incident occurred.

Yosef, in his weekly sermon on Saturday night, said that Stav was “a wicked man,” someone “dangerous to Judaism” who had “no fear of God at all.” Electing Stav would be like “bringing idolatry into the temple,” Yosef added. “He is not worthy… this man is dangerous to Judaism, dangerous to the rabbinate and dangerous to the Torah.”

During the wedding, when Stav joined the celebratory dancing, Shas MK Ariel Atias immediately left the dance floor, the report said. Some of the youths then reportedly tried to trip up Stav while cursing him. According to one person who was at the wedding, when Stav later left the hall, “dozens of people surrounded him” and called him names. Others were embarrassed by the behavior of the youths and apologized to Stav, who “quickly left the premises,” one wedding guest was quoted as saying.

Stav serves as head of Tzohar, an organization that says it seeks to make Judaism more accessible to all Israelis, religious and secular alike. His candidacy is opposed by the ultra-Orthodox and conservative religious Zionist camp on the grounds that he is too liberal. Stav has cultivated an image as an alternative to a rabbinate dominated by the ultra-Orthodox, and is waging a public campaign that has won him a strong base of popular support. He also enjoys the backing of MKs in the coalition and in the opposition.

On Sunday, Education Minister Shai Piron, himself a member of the Zionist religious camp, questioned the place of Yosef’s statement and whether it was even allowed under traditional Jewish law. “Why? Why does Rabbi Ovadiah have to curse [Rabbi Stav],” he wrote on Facebook. “Does he think that that this will bring people closer to Torah and to Judaism? Does he think that to speak this about a person he has never met is moral? Halachic? Jewish?”

In a statement, Tzohar called Yosef’s remarks a testimony to “the urgent need for change across the rabbinate” and said he should “repent and ask forgiveness.”

“We protest the incitement voiced yesterday by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef,” Tzohar said. “Israel needs a rabbinate that will connect it to Judaism, and not antagonize.”

On Sunday, Stav thanked supporters for standing at his side after Yosef’s sermon.

“I want to express thanks for the thousands of emails, text messages and phone calls I received today from rabbis, public officials and members of the public to strengthen me and my family in light of the personal attacks against me,” Stav wrote on his Facebook page. “I am torn by the divisive atmosphere that has risen over the elections for chief rabbi. However when I chose to go down this path, I put the interests of Torah before my own.”

Gavriel Fiske and Ron Friedman contributed to this report.

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