‘New marriage protocols a violation of the law’

Rotem says he’s ready to go to top court to fight politicization of ‘our beautiful Halacha.’

June 16, 2010 02:31
2 minute read.
David Rotem

Rotem 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))

MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu), the force behind his party’s bills to change the way both marriages and conversions are recognized in Israel, fired off a terse missive Tuesday to Religious Services Minister Ya’acov Margi (Shas), saying new rabbinic marriage protocols violate the law.

Rotem’s letter called upon the Chief Rabbinate to reconsider its new, more stringent policies of checking the Judaism of couples seeking to marry, whose parents married overseas. It was the first political challenge to the new protocols – a challenge Rotem said he was willing to take as far as the Supreme Court.

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“These scandalous guidelines manifest the attempt to oversee every aspect of everything that happens in the country,” Rotem, the chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, told The Jerusalem Post. “I will fight these new rules, and I will ultimately go to the Supreme Court or I will submit legislation to forbid them if I have to. I plan to fight these guidelines because I am Orthodox and I am not willing to take our beautiful Halacha and turn it into something political.”

The Chief Rabbinate’s new directives, issued last month, demand that marriage registrars send any person whose parents’ wedding was not performed by a rabbinate-recognized officiant to a lengthy “inquiry into their Judaism” at a rabbinical court. The guidelines have already gone into effect and apply to hundreds of thousands of Israelis whose parents were not married by a rabbi in Israel or by a rabbi abroad whose name is on a list of recognized Orthodox community rabbis.

A letter issued by Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger that was sent along with the new guidelines permits marriage registrars to refer even those who meet the stated conditions to such an inquiry.

Rotem complained in his letter to Margi that the guidelines, which ostensibly were drafted to aid converts, actually serve as a tool for the Chief Rabbinate to review conversions carried out in Israel.

“These directives are in violation of the existing law,” Rotem wrote. He concluded the letter with a request to be informed as to “what Margi planned to do to cancel the guidelines.”

Rotem is currently working on a controversial conversion bill that he says will help streamline the conversion process for thousands of Israelis. He was especially incensed Tuesday that Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who he said had supported his efforts to facilitate conversion, was one of the signatories on the letter that accompanied the new marriage protocols.

“The issue of the conversion disturbs me. It is a ticking time bomb, an existing problem in Israel that could destroy Israeli society,” said Rotem.

“It is a part of a bypass tactic,” he explained.

“First, you arrive at understandings with the rabbinate regarding conversion, and then you run into protocols like this. My concern is that this will be a way to cancel out the conversions of people who converted in the army.”

Such acts by the Chief Rabbinate, Rotem told the Post, “will harm the entire status of marriage and the entire status of conversion.”

He argued that the ability to question a conversion that had already been recognized violated the spirit of Jewish law, in which a convert’s status as such is not supposed to be mentioned following the conversion’s approval.

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