JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Sephardi chief rabbi in the Israeli city of Petach Tikvah has been refusing to perform marriages for Ethiopian Jews in his community.
Saying their Jewishness is questionable, Rabbi Binyamin Atias has rejected the Falash Mura, whose ancestors converted from Judaism more than 200 years ago, and has not allowed them to register in his office for marriage certificates. Falash Mura undergo a state-sponsored conversion after they arrive in Israel.
Couples are no longer required to register for marriage in the community in which they live, and many couples from Petach Tikvah register in Tel Aviv, which is located nearby, according to the Times of Israel. About 10,000 Israelis of Ethiopian descent live in the central Israel city.
Israel’s Chief Rabbinate said in a statement that the issue will be investigated. It also said that rabbis who register marriage must serve all Jewish Israeli citizens, including Ethiopians, without discrimination.
The Tzohar rabbinical organization expressed its “deep disappointment” with the decision by Atias.
“This insensitivity is reflective of a broader problem facing Israeli society where the Rabbinate claims to be acting in the name of halachic stringency and ends up tearing apart Israeli Jewish society,” Tzohar chairman and founder Rabbi David Stav said in a statement. “If this trend continues, the tragic reality is that there will no longer be a Jewish majority in Israel.”