Yonah Metzger 521.
(photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Hiddush, the religious lobbying group, has called for an investigation into
“mass violations of the law” in the wake of comments attributed to Chief Rabbi
Yona Metzger regarding state-employed rabbis who officiate at
In an interview with the haredi weekly newspaper Bakehila,
Metzger, the country’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, was quoted as saying that
“conducting weddings is often income for rabbis” and that “there are for sure
rabbis for whom this is a part of their income.”
are forbidden by law from taking money or any form of remuneration for
A spokesman for the Chief Rabbinate said in response
that Metzger had been misquoted by the interviewers, Aaron Klyger and Shlomo
Klyger had asked Metzger about one of the central criticisms aimed
at the rabbinate – the rule that people must obtain permission from the local
religious council to marry outside the council’s jurisdiction or to bring in an
outside rabbi to perform the ceremony.
According to the current rule,
this restriction can be waived if the rabbi who performs the ceremony is on a
special national list or has been specifically approved by the local religious
council where the wedding is taking place.
“If outside rabbis come and
conduct weddings in the neighborhood where a rabbi serves, then we are harming
his income,” Metzger was quoted as saying.
He went on to explain that if
a rabbi could conduct weddings anywhere, local rabbis would lower their price
for conducting weddings in order to get more clients, and could even become more
lenient in aspects of Jewish law pertaining to weddings.
went on to explain that the NIS 600 marriage registration fee also represented a
source of income for local religious councils that subsidize religious
The spokesman for the Chief Rabbinate claimed that where the
chief rabbi was quoted as saying that conducting weddings is often “income for
rabbis,” he had meant income for local religious councils.
stated to The Jerusalem Post that Metzger’s comments had been misunderstood, but
neither he nor a representative of the haredi paper could confirm that a
clarification would be printed. Klyger could not be reached for
Hiddush director Uri Regev said in a statement that law
enforcement authorities should open an investigation following the comments
attributed to the chief rabbi.
“Metzger’s comments suggest mass violation
of the law and the prevention of competition between rabbis in order to increase
the income of neighborhood and city rabbis,” said Regev.
He also called
for the abolition of the Chief Rabbinate, an end to state-employed rabbis and
the establishment of civil marriage.
“In this way,” Regev said, “every
community and sector will be able to choose in an equitable way the best rabbis
for themselves without coercion and without the division of spoils and political
I TIM, an independent religious advisory service,
“Itim is very concerned about this further indication that the
Chief Rabbinate seeks to justify its behavior rather than acknowledge its
shortcomings and address them,” said ITIM director Seth Farber, an Orthodox
rabbi. “We concur that a fuller investigation is in order.”
such as the independent Tzohar rabbinical association, have vigorously claimed
that many municipal rabbis demand payment for officiating at wedding
Tzohar executive vice-president Nachman Rosenberg said it was
“shocking” to read Metzger’s “explicit and proud description of protecting the
illegal cash income of official rabbis” working for the rabbinate.
was never a doubt that the banning of Zionist rabbis from performing weddings
was motivated by money and politics,” Rosenberg said.
He added that
Tzohar would continue to “pursue the rights of thousands of Zionist rabbis who
are fully committed to Halacha and devoted to preserving the Jewish identity of
all Jews in Israel.”