Israeli lawmakers slam end of alternative religious wedding project


JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli lawmakers from diverse parties slammed the government’s decision to prevent an organization of Modern Orthodox rabbis from performing religious wedding ceremonies for non-religious couples.

The Tzohar organization said Tuesday that Religious Services Minister Ya’akov Margi, a member of the haredi Orthodox Shas Party, told Tzohar that it would no longer be allowed to register couples with the ministry as married, effectively shutting down a service that has been marrying 3,000 couples a year free of charge.

A Jewish couple must have a religious ceremony in Israel in order to be recognized as married. Many travel abroad to marry in secular ceremonies.

Tzohar helped to involve couples and their families in the ceremony.

"Tzohar is demanding that the minister violate the law, which states that you can open a marriage file only when one member of the couple is a resident of that place," Nissim Alkasalsi, an adviser to Margi, told Haaretz.

Weddings must be registered with the municipal rabbinate where one member of the couple lives. Tzohar had been registering couples with one of two municipal rabbinates headed by members of the organization, in Shoham and Gush Etzion.

Among the lawmakers criticizing the decision were Shlomo Molla of the Kadima Party and Tzipi Hotovely of the Likud Party.

"Restricting Tzohar will cause a split in society," Molla said. "This is an important program that aims to bridge the gap between secular and religious Israelis."

Hotovely reportedly has created a bill that would allow any rabbi whose ordination is recognized by the Chief Rabbinate to perform wedding ceremonies, regardless of where they live, the Israel National News service reported. Hotovely also reportedly has said she plans to bring up the issue of Tzohar weddings in the Knesset’s Committee for the Status of Women.

The Religious Services Ministry is ending the practice by limiting the total number of marriage certificates that each of those ministries can provide in a year to 200.  


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