(photo credit: Courtesy of Jason Hutchens)
After over a year of an impassioned court debate, the state and ITIM – The
Jewish Life Information Center have agreed on a mechanism set to ensure converts
are registered for marriage by city rabbis in a way that is nearly identical to
the procedure other Israeli Jews go through.
Last September, the state
suggested that four regional rabbis would bear the the capacity to function as
marriage registrars for converts from anywhere in the country.
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solution came in the wake of the phenomenon of some city rabbis refusing to
register state-approved converts for marriage. This situation was what had
prompted Alina Sardiyokov, a convert to Judaism, and her husband, Maxim, ITIM
and three other public petitioners last March to file a High Court of Justice
petition against the rabbinate and four city rabbis.
The Chief Rabbinate
refused to censure these rabbis, whose recalcitrance was in defiance of the very
rabbinate they belonged to, and its suggestion was in effect to deflect converts
to more lenient rabbis who would agree to register them. Normally an Israeli Jew
can register for a wedding only in the rabbinate of the bride’s or groom’s
locale, or where the wedding is to take place.
In March, the rabbinate
further accepted that the converts may register in the city of their residence.
However, if the city rabbi, in his capacity as marriage registrar, refused to
register the convert, he would be obligated to transfer the request to one of
the four rabbis appointed by the Chief Rabbinate.
These rabbis, as
experts on conversion, would be able to approve the request and return it to the
convert’s local rabbinate.
Thus, explained the State Attorney’s Office,
which represented the rabbinate in the case, there would be no “stain” on the
converts, since those regional rabbis whose signature approved the paperwork
conduct many marriages, not just those of converts.
The petitioners had
at the time raised the concern that such a bypassing-procedure need to be
identical to any normal marriage registration, and earlier this week the state
announced that there would be a limit of two weeks for passing on the request
from the initial registrar to the next, and another two-week limit to have the
wedding certificate approved after the wedding.
“We would like to remind
that a couple seeking to register for a wedding must approach its religious
council at least 45 days before their ceremony. So long the couples keep the
aforementioned time limits, there should be no problems for those who underwent
a state-approved conversion,” the State Attorney’s Office wrote in the summary
of the decision from earlier this week.
In addition, the state noted the
petitioners’ right to reopen the case in seven months, if they were not
satisfied by the way the procedures were being implemented.
arrangement seemed to have satisfied the petitioners, who on Thursday declared
that “the affair of recognizing military and state conversions has reached its
end, at least at the legal level.”
“We see in the state’s declaration a
victory for the converts, and justification for the arduous struggle we led for
them,” founder and head of ITIM Rabbi Seth Farber said. “From now on, converts
will again be able to feel as an inseparable part of the Jewish people, without
Yet at the same time, Farber stressed that “we still
must be careful that such instances do not recur. ITIM will have to be the
watchdog to make sure that this arrangement is implemented.”