Members of the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel mark the holiday of Sigd in Jerusalem November 20, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Tzohar rabbinical association called on Tuesday for members of the Ethiopian-Israeli community to register for marriage through the offices of Tzohar instead of at their local religious council, owing to the refusal of some local rabbinates to approve their Jewish status.
Tzohar’s step comes against the background of anger among the Ethiopian-Israeli community at ongoing discrimination in general within Israeli society as well as a fierce political war between the Chief Rabbinate and the Tzohar organization specifically over marriage registration as well as conversion policy.
Ethiopian Israelis have frequently complained that certain local rabbinates refuse to register them for marriage, due to the refusal of some chief municipal rabbis to accept them as Jewish.
Last week, a Channel 10 report broadcast video footage taken secretly of a marriage registrar in Petah Tikva and the chief municipal rabbi of Ma’aleh Adumim refusing to register Ethiopian couples.The Jerusalem Post
has previously reported on complaints by members of the Ethiopian
community against the policy of the Petah Tikva rabbinate which has routinely refused to register Ethiopians for marriage, seemingly upon the instructions of the city's municipal chief rabbi Binyamin Attias.
Tzohar has for many years offered a marriage registration service to couples seeking to avoid unhelpful and bureaucratic clerks in local rabbinates.
The program was threatened with closure by the Chief Rabbinate and the Religious Services Ministry in 2011, which led to the eventual passage of the so-called Tzohar law in 2013 that abolished marriage registration districts and allowed local rabbinates to register couples for marriage even if they lived outside of the jurisdiction of the rabbinate in which they sought to register.
“We welcome members of the Ethiopian community who would like to register with Tzohar with open arms, and we’ll do everything in order to marry them in accordance with Jewish law, in accordance with the principles of the Chief Rabbinate and without any obstacles or bureaucracy,” said Tzohar chair, Rabbi David Stav.
Senior officials in the organization will set up meetings with leaders of the community to advance the matter.
The Chief Rabbinate and chief rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef have vigorously opposed the law abolishing marriage registration districts and have used a legal loophole to try to thwart its implementation.
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