Breakthrough seen likely in Tzohar-Rabbinate impasse

Tzohar has protested restrictions Religious Services Ministry, Chief Rabbinate imposed on its rabbis performing weddings.

Rabbi Metzger (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Rabbi Metzger
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger held a meeting Sunday morning with Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the Tzohar association of national religious rabbis, The Jerusalem Post has learned, to reach a compromise on the ability of Tzohar rabbis to conduct weddings.
Tzohar has protested restrictions the Religious Services Ministry and the Chief Rabbinate have imposed on its rabbis, which prevented many of them from conducting wedding ceremonies.
A compromise was sought as a means to avoid intervention by the High Court of Justice and the Knesset, and to peaceably resolve what had become a rancorous public spat.
The office of the Chief Rabbinate declined to comment on the matter following an inquiry by the Post.
Tzohar confirmed that the meeting took place, but stated that no agreements had been reached and that a further meeting had been arranged.
During Sunday’s meeting, also attended by Rabbi Ratzon Arusi, chairman of the Chief Rabbinate’s Weddings Committee, Metzger agreed to greatly simplify the process through which rabbis can acquire a permit to conduct weddings, thereby opening the way for the hundreds of Tzohar rabbis who have faced difficulties getting such permits, to be approved.
In return, the Post understands, Tzohar indicated that it may be willing to back down on its demand that legislation be passed in the Knesset to liberalize the marriage registration process in a much broader manner.
It is believed that Tzohar may also agree to have a petition filed on its behalf to the High Court regarding the matter be withdrawn.
The Chief Rabbinate and Metzger had expressed opposition to the proposed legislation, claiming that it would greatly damage the reliability of the rabbinate marriage process and thereby lead to irreparable divisions within the Jewish people, with members of more stringent streams refusing to marry anyone whose parents were married through the rabbinate.
The issued erupted in November when Tzohar temporarily closed its flagship free wedding service in protest at the rabbinate’s restrictions.
This move prompted a torrent of political and public anger aimed at the religious establishment, eventually leading to a temporary fix, agreed upon between Stav and Religious Services Minister Ya’acov Margi.
At the heart of the controversy was Tzohar’s allegation that rabbinate-affiliated city rabbis frequently, and illegally, demand money in exchange for performing weddings. Tzohar said the rabbinate imposed the restrictions on its rabbis in order to protect this source of income for rabbinate-affiliated rabbis.
The Chief Rabbinate has denied these allegations.
Tzohar established a project in 1996 to reach out to secular Israelis who had negative experiences with the Chief Rabbinate and provide them with the opportunity to have a rabbi more sympathetic to their level of religious observance marry them without charge or expectation of any other kind of remuneration.