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Marriage Banned by Traditional Jewish Law Recognized by Israel Govt.

The Ministry of Interior today recognized, as man and wife, a “cohen” (a Jewish male traditionally considered as descended from the ancient priestly family) and a divorcee, despite the fact that such marriages are banned by the Torah. The couple, Mrs. Shnitza Garfunkle, a divorcee, and Yerahmiel Haklai, a cohen, were registered as man and wife by the registration office in Ramat Gan.

While no clergyman officiated at the wedding, conducted two years ago, the couple followed the traditional marriage procedure involving the presentation of a ring before two witnesses. Their request for recognition of the marriage had been rejected in numerous hearings before civil and rabbinical courts.

Although the Interior Ministry ordered the registration of the couple as man and wife, it has begun legal action against the couple and the witnesses involved, since the ceremony was carried out by unauthorized persons.

Joseph Ben Menashe, attorney for the couple, and one of the leaders of the League Against Religious Coercion, said today that he was now seeking to drive a deeper wedge between the State and religion. He said he has applied to the District Court in Haifa for a declaratory judgment concerning the status of four couples living on communal farms who have been married at private ceremonies because of ideological objections to rabbinical marriage.

The application, to be heard in October, has been opposed by the Attorney General on the ground that rabbinical courts have sole jurisdiction in such matters.

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