Survey finds support for civil marriage among observant Israeli Jews


(JTA) — A quarter of Israeli Jews, including 50 percent who identified as “traditional,” support civil marriage, according to a new survey.

Conducted by the Rafi Smith Institute for the Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah movement and released Wednesday, the survey found that 56 percent of Jews in Israel agree that the current requirement that Jews there marry in a religious ceremony under the authority of the state Chief Rabbinate increases the number of those choosing instead to marry in a civil ceremony abroad.

Forty-two percent of self-described “traditional” Jews said that Israel’s religious legislation in its current scope is driving many Israelis away from Judaism.

The results suggested that religious observance and adherence to traditions do not necessarily mean support for Israel’s religious laws, according to Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, an organization that seeks to promote “open and tolerant discourse” within Orthodoxy.

Shmuel Shattach, director of Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, said the survey “slaughters a number of sacred cows.”

“First, it proves once and for all that the objection to the current state in the field of religion and state does not mean an objection to religion,” he said. “On the contrary, many of those who care about the religion are opposed to the current religious legislation, precisely because of this concern.”

His movement supports proposals by former chief Sephardi Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi-Doron and others that would ease the Orthodox rabbinate’s monopoly over Jewish marriages and allow marriages to be performed in Israel outside the framework of halachah, or Jewish law.

Shattach added: “It is time for the Israeli politicians, including the religious ones among them, to finally begin reflecting the sentiments of many within the Israeli society, including those who the religion and tradition are close to their hearts, through actions directed toward the rearrangement of the relations between religion and state.”

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