Call for end to rabbis’ grip on marriage

The modern-Orthodox group, Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah (NTA) has launched a campaign for change, writes Nathan Jeffay


A veteran Orthodox organisation has called for an end to the religious monopoly over marriage in Israel, and the introduction of civil marriage.

The modern-Orthodox group, Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah (NTA), launched a campaign for change last Sunday. It is thought to be the first Orthodox group to issue such a call.

While the Orthodox community in Israel usually argues that keeping marriage religious is essential to the country’s Jewish identity, NTA’s spokesman, Tani Frank, claimed civil marriage “will reduce antagonism towards Judaism”.

The campaign will involve seminars and lectures, and began with an 80-second video that poked fun at the religious authorities. Viewers were told that in an age of choice, the rabbinate “comes to the rescue” by “freeing you from one significant decision”, namely who should perform their marriage. “We’ve decided for you, because we all know coercion greatly increases identification,” it said sarcastically, adding that with thinking like this, “it’s no wonder everyone in Israel loves Judaism”.

Mr Frank said the rabbinate alienated many couples through its hardline stance on Jewish law, for example when rabbis only let men give women rings at weddings and not vice-versa.

NTA does not have a detailed proposal for changing marriage in Israel. Rather, said Mr Frank, it wants to trigger a conversation in the religious community. NTA claimed there was openness to the idea after a poll it commissioned concluded 49 per cent of the religious-Zionist community supported some form of civil marriage.

But Yuval Cherlow, a prominent rabbi in another liberal Orthodox organisation, Tzohar, dismissed the poll as “nonsense”. Tzohar is a strong critic of the rabbinate, like NTA, but wants it to reform to become more user-friendly.

Rabbi Cherlow said that the rabbinate needed to keep control of marriage because it represented the “core” of Jewish identity. He also argued civil marriage would be used to wed Jews and non-Jews, thus sending out the message that Israel approves of intermarriage.


Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive