An Ultra-orthodox couple at their wedding in Bnei Brak..
(photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A bill proposed by MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi) to prevent municipal rabbis from charging couples for performing their wedding ceremonies was passed into law on Monday night.
Currently, rabbis working in the district of a particular religious council, from which they receive a salary, are able to charge money from couples for performing their wedding even if one of the spouses lives in the district. The current law does prevent a rabbi from charging couples for this service if one of the spouses lives in his specific neighborhood, but not if they live in the broader area covered by the religious council which pays his salary.
Moalem explained that the reasoning behind the new law was to help young couples who are unaware of their rights within the religious bureaucracy, and would particularly benefit nonreligious couples who do not have a close relationship with any particular rabbi.
“The proposed law focuses on those couples that encounter the rabbinical world almost for the first time in their lives on the special day on which they wish to enter into marriage under the wedding canopy,” she said, before the Knesset approved the legislation.
The law will ban state-employed rabbis from charging money for performing weddings, and requests that guidelines be drawn up by the religious services minister, in consultation with the president of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate (currently Chief Rabbi David Lau, and with the approval of the Interior Ministry, to determine the exact parameters of the new regulations, including in which geographic area they must provide a free wedding service.
If a rabbi is asked to perform a wedding ceremony in a private capacity outside of his geographic jurisdiction for a fee, he must receive permission to do so, with a maximum charge to be determined by the religious services minister.
Any rabbi who takes money or a gift for conducting a wedding in contravention of the new guidelines will be subject to disciplinary procedures.
Additionally, information regarding the rights of couples to have a state-employed rabbi perform their wedding without charge must be posted prominently in marriage registration offices.
Several haredi lawmakers have opposed the legislation, arguing that it prevents public workers from supplementing their wages.
Shas MK Nissim Ze’ev said on Monday that the law disparaged state-employed rabbis and assumed they were out to make money.
“The trend behind this law is to say ‘Look, rabbis take money.’ This is a framework of slander; rabbis don’t demand or charge money,” he claimed.
Moalem defended the measure, saying that it was an important step to reduce alienation of the nonreligious public from the religious establishment.
“This law is designed for the secular public who want to get married in accordance with Jewish law,” said Moalem in response.
“As long as you support rabbis who take money, we will find ourselves with fewer and fewer marriages conducted according to Jewish law. The couples already pay marriage registration charges, there is absolutely no reason to take more money from them,” the MK concluded.