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Israeli Captain Refuses Shipboard Marriage; Refers Couple to Rabbi

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A couple frustrated in their desire for a shipboard marriage aboard an Israeli liner bound from New York to Haifa has provided the Israeli Ministry of Justice with a new legal problem.

Having been forced to wait until the vessel docked to seek out a rabbi and be married, the couple complained to the Ministry against the captain’s refusal to perform the ceremony–a hallowed tradition of the sea. To add to their sense of injustice, they were told that, had they been non-Jewish, the captain would have performed the ceremony.

When he was asked to officiate, the captain sought the advice of a passenger–a prominent American attorney. The latter warned the mariner that Israeli law provided that Jews could only be wed by a rabbi and that he had no legal authority to substitute as a spiritual leader. The captain there upon refused to officiate and the stage was set for today’s appeal to the Ministry of Justice.

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