Israel Expected to Widen Choice of Wedding Rabbis

Bill would 'force' Chief Rabbinate to 'improve its services and adapt to the Israel of 2013,' says MK.

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A new bill authorizing the opening of 88 new offices for the registration of marriages is expected to pass its second and third reading tomorrow, revolutionizing the delivery of religious services in Israel.

According to the proposed law, couples will be able to choose the rabbi officiating at their wedding regardless of their officially registered residence. Until now, they were restricted to their registered residence. The so-called “Tzohar bill” bears the sole signature of MK Eitan Cabel (Labor), since earlier signatories were either appointed to government posts or not reelected to the present Knesset.

Cabel's bill is widely supported by both coalition and opposition members, but is a red flag for the ultra-Orthodox parties. “The new law will bring about a conceptual revolution in the dispensation of religious services in Israel," said Cabel. "The new revolution will bring segments of the public closer to Judaism, after they had distanced themselves following the harshness and ossification associated with it under the rabbinical leadership. A wedding is an intimate procedure, and it is appropriate that a couple can choose the rabbi they wish to work with.

“I’m sure the new law will upgrade the Chief Rabbinate," added Cabel, "since it will force it to improve its services and adapt to the Israel of 2013.

"Currently a couple can only register at the Rabbinate in the place of residence that is listed in the ID of one of them," said Cabel. "This made sense in the days when the local rabbi knew all the residents, so he could approve or disqualify requests for marriage registration.

"Today, cities are larger and rabbis don’t know all their residents. They can just as easily register people from other locations. Furthermore, couples in the past usually chose to live near the former residence of one of them. Today, couples often move away from their parents’ homes without changing their registered residence. Choosing a rabbi at their official residence often poses hardships.

"The opening of multiple registration sites will make their lives easier, saving them time and money, without any cost to the state or a slackening of rabbinical supervision.”

Newlyweds Melody Mostow and Avi Coven at their wedding in August 2013.Credit: Thomas Miller

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