An alternative Tu Be'av wedding

Couples takes aim at ‘Rabbinate’s grip.'

wedding 311 (photo credit: Aner Grin)
wedding 311
(photo credit: Aner Grin)
Weddings tend to be a public or official demonstration of commitment to a bond, generally based on love, between two people.
Early Sunday evening, as the minor Jewish holiday of love, Tu Be’av, set in, a young couple conducted a very public nuptial ceremony in front of the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, designed in part to demonstrate against the current situation in Israel, where the only way for Jews to wed by law is through the Chief Rabbinate.
On Tu Be’av in Second Temple times, single Jewish girls in white dresses would sing and dance in the vineyards surrounding Jerusalem, to be observed and subsequently selected for marriage by eligible Jewish men. The tradition didn’t survive, but the day is still celebrated as the Jewish equivalent of Valentine’s Day and is one of the most sought-after dates for weddings in Israel.
So for Stas Granin and Yulia Tagil, Tu Be’av was the perfect day to tie the knot and an opportunity to raise their voices in protest against the Rabbinate. Their wedding, which was the centerpiece of the day’s “Free Love” event, was conducted in a pluralistic Jewish ceremony by Dr. Motti Zaira.
“We are Jewish enough to serve in the army, pay taxes and fulfill our civil obligations, but we are not Jewish enough to get married here,” said Granin, who made aliya from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s. Granin, 28, and Tagil, 29, are two of an estimated 350,000 Israelis who were recognized by the state as eligible for aliya under the Law of Return but are not considered halachically Jewish or have had their Jewishness called into question by the Chief Rabbinate.
Attempts to provide a legal status to civil marriages between Jews in Israel have been unsuccessful. Israel Beiteinu’s MK David Rotem recently passed a law allowing civil unions between non- Jews, but the problem remains for the tens of thousands of young people who are either not halachically Jewish, although though they perceive themselves as such, or would have to undergo what they see as an unnecessary probe by the Rabbinate into their background to prove they’re Jewish.
Non-Orthodox Jewish ceremonies in Israel are not recognized by the law, and growing numbers of Israelis, including those who are clearly Jewish according to Halacha, are choosing to either marry outside of Israel and have their marriage certificate validated upon their return, or simply live as common-law couples.
But Granin and Tagil, who bear in their minds the 70 years of anti-religious oppression in the Soviet Union, wanted to marry as Jews in Israel, even if Sunday evening’s ceremony would not be recognized by the state. They stressed that they were opposed not to the existence of the Rabbinate, but to the inability of people to choose the way they marry.
This is the second public Tu Be’av protest wedding. It was accompanied by street theater, live music, films, dancing and information booths promoting freedom of choice in marriage. It was funded primarily by the New Israel Fund and organized by Havaya, an organization that promotes alternative Jewish life-cycle ceremonies, and Fishka, a community of young Russian- speakers in Israel promoting social change.
“It is a great mitzva not to marry through the Rabbinate,” said Eran Baruch, head of Bina: Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture, which also supported the event. “The religious establishment’s control over our lives is distancing many populations, particularly that of immigrants.”