Two British Rabbinates Disagree on Authority for Jewish Marriages

The Chief Rabbinate in Commission, which administers the Chief Rabbinate of Britain’s United Synagogue until the new Chief Rabbi takes office, expressed “profound regret” today over plans by the Federation of Synagogues to set up its own marriage licensing authority. Earlier this year, the Federation embarked on a course of estrangement from the United Synagogue when the former organization announced that it was establishing its own Beth Din religious court. Both synagogue groups are Crthodox.

Asserting that the latest move by the Federation would “tend to undermine the integrity and cohesive character of Anglo-Jewry, ” the Chief Rabbinate pointed out in a letter to the Federation that, for over a century, marriages in Anglo-Jewry had been solemnized under the jurisdiction of the Chief Rabbi, and records had been meticulously kept. The letter warned that the move by the Federation would jeopardize “this unique system” and that the Chief Rabbi could not assume responsibility for any marriage authorized under the authority of the Federation.

Replying to the Chief Rabbinate’s letter, a Federation statement today said that the decision of its general council to establish its own Beth Din “arose out of the refusal of the United Synagogue to ratify an agreement providing for a unified ecclesiastical authority” which, it said, had been negotiated over many months. Marriages, it said, were “naturally” within the jurisdiction of the Beth Din, The statement went on to say that the Federation saw no reason why there should not be full cooperation between the Chief Rabbinates of the Federation and the United Synagogue.

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