Cantors in Massachusetts Barred from Performing Any Marriage Ceremonies
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Cantors in Massachusetts Barred from Performing Any Marriage Ceremonies

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(Jewish Daily Bulletin)

Cantors in Massachusetts will no longer be considered proper persons under the law of the Commonwealth to perform the marriage ceremony, according to an official letter issued by the Secretary of State, it was announced today. According to the definition of Rabbi as reported to the Secretary of State by a committee of rabbis, cantors who heretofore performed the marriage ceremony will now be prohibited from doing so under the Massachusetts statutes, chapter 207, section 37 to 40.

This issue has been the subject of debate for many months. It was believed that an amicable arrangement had been reached, until the official letter instructing town clerks to check all Jewish ceremonies with their records was issued by Secretary Cook.

Former representative Bernard Ginsburg was retained as counsel for the Jewish Ministers Cantors Association to fight the issue in the courts, following a meeting of leading cantors held at the home of Cantor I. G. Glickstein, vice-president of the association.

In a statement to the Jewish Daily Bulletin correspondent, Mr. Ginsburg stated that he intends to bring the issue before the Supreme Court as a test case under the present statute.

The definition of rabbi as reported to Secretary of State Cook by the committee of rabbis, including Orthodox, Reform and Conservative, stated: “A rabbi is one who is graduated from a rabbinical seminary or affiliated with a rabbinical association or privately or properly educated as a rabbi, and who is certified as being connected with a congregation as a rabbi.”

It was at first believed that the statute would be amended to include cantors, but no move in this direction has been taken. The Cantors Association will bring a petition of mandamus to secure the recognition of the cantors’ right to solemnize the marriage ceremony. Many of the smaller communities in the State without rabbis will suffer from the new ruling, it was stated.

The Secretary of State declared that it was not his intention to prohibit cantors from marrying persons and that the term “cantor” is not mentioned in the letter issued from his office. He also said that where there is no record of the certificate of rabbi, clerks are to refer the metter to the decision of the congregation.

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