(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The state is proposing solutions for converts who wish to marry but are rejected
by stringent marriage registrars, by circumventing, but not removing, such
In an answer to the High Court of Justice, submitted on
Wednesday, the State Attorney’s Office reiterated and expanded its position as
initially set forth last September: that four regional rabbis appointed by the
Chief Rabbinate would have the capacity to function as marriage registrars for
converts from anywhere in the country.
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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.
The updated answer comes in
response to the petition filed by converts last March against the rabbinate and
four city rabbis who have repeatedly refused to grant marriage licenses to
Israelis who converted to Judaism in Orthodox religious courts recognized by the
The petition was filed by Alina Sardiyokov, a convert to Judaism,
and her husband Maxim; ITIM – The Jewish Life Information Center; and three
other public petitioners.
In the updated solution proposed by the state,
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 have 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.
way, the State Attorney’s Office wrote, there would be no “stain” on the
converts, since those regional rabbis signed on the paperwork conduct many
marriages, not just those of converts.
The petitioners had charged that
forcing the converts to register with specific rabbis would mark them as
In addition, the process the converts would undergo,
as far as the procedures, would be no different, since they would register
through their local rabbinate, the state said.
“In light of that, we
think that the Chief Rabbinate need not force the [recalcitrant city rabbis] to
register couples for marriage against their consciences, due to the existence of
a viable solution to the problem,” the state said.
Dr. Aviad Hacohen,
dean of the Sha’arei Mishpat College and one of the attorneys representing
converts in the petition, lauded the fact that “the state and Chief Rabbinate
finally recognized the essential need to solve the issues concerning converts,
who have tied their fate to that of the Jewish people.”
Hacohen, in a
statement from Wednesday night, continued, “The true test of the new proposal
will be in its practical implementation, in the possibility of converts to marry
like any other Israelis, without being marked as different, in a matter that is
contrary to the Jewish and democratic values of the State of
ITIM head Rabbi Seth Farber also called the state’s answer “a
step in the right direction,” but was still undecided as to whether the
resolution would suffice for them to withdraw their petition.
still concerned,” he said on Thursday. Given how poorly the rabbis in question
behaved with converts and fulfilling the Chief Rabbinate’s directives to
register state-approved converts for marriage, he said, it would be important to
ensure that they indeed followed the new orders, which might also go against
“We need to guarantee that not only are the converts
protected geographically, in that they needn’t distance from their locales to
register for marriage,” but that their registration procedures shouldn’t take
longer than anyone else’s, he added.
“Before we accept this offer, we
will have to make sure that there are enough checks and balances in place that
will guarantee their full rights,” he said. “Until then, the battle is not