Rabbi David Stav.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Rabbi David Stav, the chairman of the national-religious Tzohar rabbinical association, said on Monday that “rabbinic politicians” in the Chief Rabbinate were more concerned with preserving their power than with improving religious services.
Stav was responding to criticism directed at Tzohar and the law it supported, which was passed in 2013, that abolished marriage registration districts and allows couples to register for marriage anywhere around the country.
Rabbi Yitzhak Ralbag, a member of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, claimed at a conference last week in Netanya that Tzohar does not require that couples who go to the organization’s offices to register for marriage provide certificates proving their single marital status.
Ralbag said that Tzohar should not be able to register marriages any longer, as punishment.
Tzohar helps approximately 3,000 couples marry every year and has helped more than 70,000 in total since it launched its marriage project designed to help couples through the marriage registration and navigate the religious bureaucracy.
The purpose of Tzohar’s law is to allow couples to avoid unhelpful and overly bureaucratic local religious councils when registering for marriage, and approach more welcoming and helpful ones, in a jurisdiction outside of their place of residence.
Abolishing the marriage registration districts was designed to stimulate competition among the religious councils for the NIS 700 marriage registration fee so as to improve the service provided to marrying couples.
The Chief Rabbinate has steadfastly opposed the law, however, saying that it presents difficulties to religious council staff and chief municipal rabbis in determining that the spouses are indeed single, if they come from a different jurisdiction.
The Chief Rabbinate is therefore not requiring municipal chief rabbis to accept couples from all other jurisdictions, and so rabbis opposed to the law are demanding that couples from outside their jurisdiction produce a certificate of single status from the religious council in their place of residence costing an extra NIS 170, thereby circumventing the new law.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Stav insisted that Tzohar was scrupulous in requiring witnesses to testify that applicants are single, and said the claims about validating the single status of couples from another jurisdiction were a cover for the true intention of maintaining power and control over the marriage registration system and the money that is bound up in it.
“It is time to say very clearly that the demand for certificates of single status from a separate religious council is simply a way to take money from people, and there is no requirement in Jewish law for it,” said Stav.
“Everybody knows that the chief rabbi of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv doesn’t have a clue about the inhabitants that live in that city and their marital status. He has no more information about them than the rabbi of the city where they’re registering.
“There is no rationale for this, apart from taking money from the couples. Rabbi Ralbag should follow the law instead of raising obstacles,” the Tzohar chairman said.
“Instead of looking for ways to attract people to come and get registered in the rabbinate, members of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate are busy trying to fight Tzohar. I really wonder how the chief rabbis will explain, when they go to Jewish communities in the US and other places, what the reasons are for putting up all these obstacles in front of couples who want to get married.
Instead of looking for ways to improve services, these rabbinic politicians are looking for ways to take money from people.
“I really wonder why Rabbi Ralbag and others did not come to ask Tzohar rabbis what they could do and what they could learn from us about how to improve services.”