Alternative religious weddings allowed to continue


JERUSALEM (JTA) — An organization of Modern Orthodox rabbis that performs alternative religious wedding ceremonies for non-religious couples can continue to register the couples.

The Tzohar organization can register the married couples in the community of Shoham, where the head of the organization serves as chief rabbi, while a new bill proposed to loosen restrictions on where marriages can be registered works its way through the system, the organization said Thursday.

Weddings currently 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, in contravention of the law. Under Thursday’s agreement, the organization can continue to register the couples.

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, marrying about 3,000 couples a year free of charge.

The Kadima Party has initiated a bill that would cancel regional marriage registrations, according to Ynet. Religious Services Minister Ya’akov Margi of the haredi Orthodox Shas party told Ynet he does not object to the bill’s proposal.

“This new regulation will improve Tzohar’s ability to increase its success of assisting secular couples to marry in full compliance with both halachaj and the laws of the State of Israel,” said Rabbi David Stav, who heads Tzohar. “We therefore thank Minister Margi for re-evaluating this issue and making the necessary decision, which will benefit many thousands of Jewish couples in the years ahead.”

“This should be viewed as a major victory for Jewish values and Israeli democracy, and we hope that it will be the beginning of continued progress in healing the divide in society and preserving the Jewish character of the State of Israel.”

Margi told Ynet that he was not trying to shut down Tzohar but was trying to fix flaws in the wedding registration system, which is under investigation by the state comptroller.

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