Supreme Rabbinical Council to Review Case of ‘illegitimate’ Brother, Sister

A supreme rabbinical council will review the case of a brother and sister forbidden by a rabbinical court to marry partners of their choice because the court branded them “illegitimate” according to religious law. All but one of the elders on the council has agreed to serve on the review panel. Previously, all had refused. The reversal was attributed to the personal intervention of Defense Minister Moshe Dayan in the case of Hannoch and Miryam Langer, both members of Israel’s armed forces. Former chief chaplain Rabbi Shlomo Goren, now Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, studied the case and announced recently that he had found new material warranting the appointment of a panel to review the ruling of the lower religious court.

The Langers were ruled “illegitimate” by a religious court because there was no conclusive evidence of the death of their mother’s first husband who disappeared in Europe during World War II. According to religious law, children born out of wedlock can marry only other “illegitimates.” The rabbinical authorities’ refusal to issue marriage licenses to the Langers aroused widespread indignation in Israel against the Orthodox establishment.

Should the review panel uphold the decision of the religious court, the youngsters would be permanently forbidden to wed in Israel and should they contract civil marriages outside the country, their children would be branded “illegitimate” by the Israeli rabbis. Premier Golda Meir reportedly gave the Langers “assurances” regarding their status. The nature of the assurances was not divulged but apparently hinged on the fact that Rabbi Goren is a likely candidate for the post of Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi in next year’s rabbinical elections. He has demonstrated a less rigid stance in the case than most of his colleagues.

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