Rabbinate fighting non-orthodox 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Following a Tuesday afternoon meeting of the Chief Rabbinical Council, chief
rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger said the body had decided to establish a
committee to investigate claims of discrimination in granting rabbis licenses to
perform marriages and enforcing marriage registration laws.
had been called to discuss the council’s position on the controversy that
erupted last week over the Tzohar rabbinical group and its free wedding
Though they agreed to look into the matter, both Amar and
Metzger were extremely critical of the way Tzohar had sought to solve the
“Instead of coming and talking until an agreement could be
reached, a great mistake was made,” said Amar. “Very severe slander was spoken
against all rabbis in Israel, things that have no connection to
Metzger spoke in even harsher terms: “The campaign waged by
Tzohar last week against the rabbis of Israel is unparalleled
Amar referred obliquely to Tzohar’s claims that rabbis
associated with the rabbinate took unauthorized payments for performing
weddings, saying that even if there had been “one such case,” it should not be a
reason to accuse other rabbis of the same thing.
“The blood of rabbis
should not be treated lightly,” he asserted.
In a statement Tuesday
night, Tzohar rejected the chief rabbis’ claims that it had sought to create a
public fight instead of discussing the issue.
“The organization’s request
for help from the public to prevent the closure of the [wedding] program was
carried out after every effort was [made], over several years, [to come to an
agreement], including appeals to the chief rabbis themselves,” the organization
“It has been proven in many studies and surveys that the desire for
civil marriage is growing within the secular community and is being driven by
the growing influence of Lithuanian sections of the Chief Rabbinate, along with
the exclusion of religious Zionist rabbis,” it continued. “This process has
occurred in parallel with the years of slander leveled against the [Tzohar]
Last week, Tzohar temporarily shut down its free
wedding program, aimed mainly at secular couples, in protest of regulations that
the Religious Affairs Ministry and the Rabbinate had imposed, which would have
prevented hundreds of couples from making use of the organization’s
Tzohar claimed that the regulations were being selectively
imposed on them while private haredi courts that infringed on the same laws were
Tzohar reopened the program following an agreement between its
chairman, Rabbi David Stav, and Religious Services Minister Ya’acov
Said Amar in response to Tzohar’s allegations: “They claim that
perhaps there is some discrimination against some communities.
weren’t aware of them. But we have now established a very distinguished
committee, which we hope will also include a senior representative of Tzohar. It
will examine the issue truthfully, and if there is something which is found
which is not fair or not equitable or discriminates against anyone, then the
committee will rectify it and the rabbinical council will support
Metzger flatly denied that there was any discrimination in the
application of regulations determining which rabbis qualify for licenses to
“Most of their rabbis qualify according to the
criteria. If there are a few of them who don’t meet the criteria requirements,
then they’re no different from other rabbis in Israel who also don’t qualify,”
he claimed. “But we’re open to everyone, we act equally, and we’re not
discriminating against anyone.”
Rumors had circulated prior to the
meeting that the council would cancel the agreement between Margi and Tzohar,
but Amar denied this and any knowledge of the deal.
“We don’t know about
any agreement. What Margi said he would do does not include any changes to how
the issue was dealt with until now. We can’t go into further details,” he said.