Chief Rabbi Council to probe wedding flap


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli Chief Rabbinate Council said it will investigate the procedures of an organization of Modern Orthodox rabbis that performs alternative religious wedding ceremonies for non-religious couples.

The council could overturn an agreement between the Tzohar organization and the Religious Ministry that allows rabbis from the group to marry couples even if they do not live in the municipal rabbinate where one member of the couple lives.

Under the agreement reached last week, Tzohar 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 Knesset.

According to ministry regulations, weddings must be registered with the municipal rabbinate where one member of the couple lives. 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 helps to involve non-religious couples and their families in the ceremony, marrying about 3,000 couples a year free of charge.

The council on Tuesday during a meeting run by the council’s chairman, Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, agreed to continue to enforce the regulation requiring community rabbis to perform marriage ceremonies. The council said that a municipal rabbi who allows an unauthorized rabbi to perform a wedding in his community will be disciplined. Not all Tzohar rabbis are authorized to perform weddings by the Chief Rabbinate, but Tzohar-affiliated municipal rabbis have allowed them to do so.

The chief rabbi decried Tzohar’s claim that some municipal rabbis charge to conduct a wedding, which they are not supposed to do. Metzger called Tzohar’s public campaign to continue to conducting weddings "unparalleled chutzpah."

No Tzohar rabbis were invited to the meeting.

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