Bill to ensure all rabbis can perform weddings

Move comes following furor last week when religious-Zionist Tzohar rabbinical organization shut down free wedding service.

November 15, 2011 01:32
2 minute read.
Alternative wedding, Tel Aviv

Alternative wedding, Tel Aviv_311. (photo credit: Reuters)

MK Tzipi Hotovely announced Monday she would be introducing a bill, along side MK Uri Orbach, to legally ensure that any rabbi with ordination from the Chief Rabbinate is able to carry out wedding ceremonies.

The move comes following furor that erupted last week when the religious-Zionist Tzohar rabbinical organization shut down its free wedding service because of bureaucratic obstacles erected by the Religious Services Ministry. A deal was eventually reached and Tzohar restarted its program.

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In a hearing today in the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women, which Hotovely chairs, she said the current situation needs to be corrected, despite the agreement reached last week, and the criteria defining which rabbis can conduct weddings need to be overhauled.

Orbach, also present at the hearing, denounced the rabbinate in particularly vehement terms.

“The harassment of Tzohar rabbis began with the Chief Rabbinate, and then was continued by the Religious Services Ministry,” he said. “It is these two agencies that are strangling Tzohar because it threatens the rabbinate… It’s the Chief Rabbinate who is preventing religious-Zionist rabbis from performing weddings by establishing criteria enabling any rebbe, even if he’s known only to his hassidim, to perform weddings, while a senior religious-Zionist rabbi, doesn’t qualify according to these criteria.”

The proposed bill will seek to change the existing criteria for approving marriage licenses for rabbis, which Tzohar says discriminate against their rabbis and prevent hundreds of them from officiating at weddings. The new law, if passed, would mean that any rabbi with ordination from the rabbinate, who has received approval from the chief rabbi of any city, and has passed a course dealing with the laws of marriage, will be able to register couples and officiate at their wedding.

Hotovely said at the hearing, “the truth is distorted when the religious services minister or anyone else can allocate quotas for marriage. Why does someone who has rabbinical ordination from the rabbinate, passed exams and bears the title of a rabbi, need to send faxes before every wedding to get a permit to perform the wedding?” Shas MK Haim Amsalem weighed in on the broader aspects of the controversy.

“Every day last month we witnessed another form of [religious] radicalization, ” he observed. “Where is this leading to?” he asked, and called on the rabbinate to halt what he termed its “sabotage and discrimination.”

Ilan Gilon of Meretz went even further and called for a complete separation of church and state.

“We think that religion has taken over politics but really it’s the other way around, politics has taken over religion.” Full pluralism, said Gilon, is the only solution.

“I am a man of faith, I’m not secular, but I think we need to separate religion and state to allow everyone to find exactly what they want to find.”

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