(photo credit: INIMAGE)
A bill to annul a law that stipulates a possible two-year term of imprisonment for a rabbi who performs a wedding outside the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate was blocked on Sunday.
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted against the bill, proposed by Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie, which was designed to repeal the severe legal implications for rabbis who perform such weddings.
There are frequent cases in which couples encounter severe bureaucratic problems with the rabbinate that prevent them getting married on their intended wedding date.
This includes instances when the rabbinate fails to approve one or both of the partners’ documentation proving their Jewish status; refuses to accept converts as Jewish; or when couples elect to marry with an Orthodox rabbi of their choosing, but without the rabbinate’s approval.
The law, as it stands, subjects both a rabbi who performs a huppa and the couple getting married, to a two year criminal punishment if their marriage is not registered in the rabbinate.
Over the past two years, dozens of couples have married outside of the rabbinate as an act of civil disobedience.
Lavie’s amendment would have limited the law only to marriage registrars who performed weddings without registering them.
“The present law is an outrage,” said Rabbi Seth Farber, director of the ITIM Advocacy Center, which wrote the proposed amendment along with the Mavoi Satum women’s rights group.
“I am disappointed that the cabinet couldn’t look beyond petty politics to rectify this law, which is disproportionately severe and ludicrous.
Israel is now among a few select countries where it is a criminal act to perform a huppa.”
Farber said ITIM would seek litigation to protect rabbis and couples who seek to be married outside the rabbinate.
Mavoi Satum director Batya Kehana-Dror also criticized the decision not to approve the amendment.
“As an organization that encourages marriage outside of the rabbinate because of the problems within the religious establishment and the difficulties it creates in divorce proceedings, we cannot be reconciled to a situation in which couples who choose to marry in a private ceremony, and those who assist them, are turned into criminals and will be subject to imprisonment,” said Kehana-Dror.
“The current legal situation constitutes a severe injury to the right to marry as well as human dignity and freedom, and is likely to be interpreted as religious persecution.”