JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Chief Rabbinate extended the time within which a couple can register its intention to marry from three months to one year.
The rabbinate came to the decision on Monday, Rabbi Nachman Rosenberg, executive vice president of the Tzohar rabbinical organization, told JTA.
Rosenberg said the added time is a boon to couples who were not born in Israel but wish to marry there. He called the change a “huge victory.”
Tzohar, which works to make rabbinic services for marriage and other life-cycle events more user friendly for Israelis, has been asking the rabbinate to increase the length of time for registering a marriage for the past decade, according to Rosenberg.
He said the short window has caused “tremendous problems” for thousands of couples and is especially problematic for immigrants to Israel. The immigrants, Rosenberg said, may be asked to produce supporting documents, such as their parents’ ketubah, or Jewish marriage certificate, or a letter from a community rabbi, to prove their Jewishness or the fact that they are single.
“Couples would find themselves weeks before they are supposed to get married not knowing if they will be able to,” Rosenberg said, adding that there was no basis under Jewish law for the three-month cutoff.
He said many couples, who did not care if they were married according to Jewish law, would go abroad to be married rather than deal with the uncertainty of registering within the three-month window.
Rosenberg credited new Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef for his sensitivity to the issue.
“This is another huge victory in removing bureaucratic obstacles that directly fuel intermarriage and assimilation,” he said.
The ruling, which will be distributed to the 60 offices in Israel that register marriages and conversions, comes a month after the Knesset passed the Tzohar Law allowing couples to choose the city in which to register their marriage.