Israel's Chief Rabbinical Council May Scrap Tzohar Weddings

If panel decides against Tzohar, Religious Services Minister probably will not give Tzohar more marriage certificates, his representative on Chief Rabbinate Council said.

Rabbis from the Tzohar organization may soon have to stop performing marriages despite an agreement reached with Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi just last week, after the  Chief Rabbinical Council set up a special committee to review the agreement on Tuesday.

The panel may not formally have the power to void the agreement, but if it opposes it, Margi would probably not give Tzohar any more marriage certificates beyond the 300 he gave it last week, his representative on the Chief Rabbinical Council said.

 Chief Rabbinical Council
Memebers of Israel's Chief Rabbinical Council meet on November 15, 2011.Olivier Fitoussi

Tzohar, an organization of religious Zionist rabbis, performs weddings for couples that don't want to marry through their local municipal rabbinate. The marriages are registered in one of the handful of towns with a Tzohar-controlled rabbinate. Since this violates the rule that one member of a couple must live in the town where the marriage is registered, the Chief Rabbinate had demanded that the group stop performing weddings. Last week, Margi agreed to let Tzohar keep registering marriages throughout the country despite this rule. But now, this agreement is in danger.

The council also decided that any municipal chief rabbi who allows unauthorized rabbis to perform weddings in his town will face disciplinary charges. Currently, not all Tzohar rabbis are authorized to perform weddings by the Chief Rabbinate, but Tzohar-affiliated municipal rabbis have in the past allowed them to do so.

At Tuesday's council meeting, both chief rabbis lambasted Tzohar's claim that some municipal rabbis charge for conducting weddings - which Tzohar rabbis do not. Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar termed this "a grave libel against all Israeli rabbis," while Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger termed it "unparalleled chutzpah."