Rabbi Seth Farber.
(photo credit: COURTESY ITIM)
The ITIM religious services assistance organization has launched a Web application for the public to rate the 160 marriage registration offices of local religious councils around the country.
The rating facility was initiated as a way of increasing the efficacy of a law approved in October that abolished regional marriage districts.
The law, promoted and advanced by the Tzohar rabbinical association, was designed to improve the frequently poor service religious councils provide to couples wishing to register for marriage, and to circumvent rabbis who illegally charge couples to perform weddings.
Before the law was passed, couples could only register in the jurisdiction of the religious council where they lived. The idea behind the law is that the provision of services will be improved by increasing competition between local religious councils for the NIS 700 marriage registration fee that the state pays.
ITIM’s Web application allows couples who are about to get married, or those who have just done so, to rate the services of the religious council where they registered in order to provide readily available information to other couples about which councils provide the best service.
The application allows couples to rate several aspects of the marriage registration service provided, including waiting time, efficiency and promptness of service, methods of payment, quality of service (such as patience and respectful attitude of office clerks), respect for gender equality, and treatment of special cases.
The application calculates an overall figure for the religious council in question and ranks them by score on the application Web page.
ITIM provided one recent example of a couple who went to the council in their area and had to wait two hours to be seen by a male marriage registration official, who then totally ignored the female partner and spoke only to her fiancé.
The couple said that if they had known that there was a better marriage registration office nearby they would have gone there instead.
“This story is not unusual and they experienced problems which are frequently brought to the attention of ITIM,” the organization’s director Shaul Farber said.
Although the application has just been launched, dozens of local religious councils have been evaluated online by couples who have gone through the registration experience.
Presently the religious council with the best service with at least five reviews is in Efrat, which has a score of 5.0 (full marks) and has been reviewed by six couples.
The marriage registration office run by Tzohar in Lod has 29 reviews and a rating of 4.7; Jerusalem has 24 reviews and rating of 3.8; Tel Aviv has 40 reviews and a score of 3.4; and Rishon Lezion has 15 reviews and scored 3.0.
The waiting time in Rishon Lezion got a particularly low score with a rating of 2.3, and a score of 3.0 for its attitude to gender equality.
Separately, MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua) said last week in Knesset that the law abolishing marriage registration zones was not being fully implemented.
He said that some local religious councils were refusing to register couples for marriage unless they brought documents proving their marital status from the religious council of their place of residence, and accused the Chief Rabbinate of being behind this policy.
Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan (Bayit Yehudi) replied that “the current law does not obviate the requirement for marital status documents” and that they still need to brought from the religious council of their place of residence.
He said, however, that a comprehensive, computerized database for citizens’ marital status was now up and running and a committee from the Chief Rabbinate was reviewing the new system.
“After inspecting the new system, the Council of the Chief Rabbinate will issue a notice annulling the need to present marital status documents from [a couple’s] place of residence,” Ben-Dahan said.
The deputy minister said that he believed the Council of the Chief Rabbinate would approve the system in its next monthly meeting.