At the request of the International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF), we are happy to disseminate the following IRF statement concerning the current struggle over who may perform weddings in Israel. For the last month, Israel’s ministry for Religious Services, controlled by the Shas party, has been attempting to prohibit the rabbis of Tzohar, a Modern Orthodox, National-Religious group from performing weddings. Tzohar, whose rabbis have performed over 15,000 weddings in Israel over the past sixteen years, had created its Wedding Project in 1996 in response to the very negative experiences that secular Israelis had been having with rabbis who work for the Chief Rabbinate. Insensitive and discourteous treatment by these rabbis had been leaving a very sour taste toward religion in the mouths of many couples, and many others were simply opting to marry in Cyprus, without a religious ceremony at all. By contrast, in Tzohar’s description of their Wedding Project , “Tzohar’s rabbis do their best to turn the wedding encounter into a spiritual experience; one which enriches both the couple and the rabbi, which leaves a positive impression with the young couple, and which creates the possibility of further meetings between the couple and rabbi further on in life. The success of the Wedding Project lies in a set of guidelines within which the organization’s rabbis function:
1. The rabbi meets with the couple before the wedding for a conversation aimed at explaining and designing the wedding ceremony.
2. The rabbi arrives punctually at the place of the ceremony.
3. Tzohar’s rabbis do not perform more than one ceremony on any given evening.
4. Tzohar’s rabbis receive no payment for officiating at a wedding.
IRF STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF TZOHAR
The International Rabbinical Fellowship calls upon the Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel to permit the rabbis of the Tzohar rabbinical organization to continue registering marriages and conducting weddings in the State of Israel as has been the practice for the last decade.
The wedding initiative under the auspices of Tzohar has allowed thousands of Israeli couples, who might have opted for non-halakhic avenues, to marry under the wedding canopy according to the laws of Moses and Israel. Furthermore, it has brought many more to greater love for Torah and the commandments and respect and appreciation for tradition in the spirit of “Her Ways are ways of Gentleness and all he paths are peaceful”. The important work of Tzohar is a Kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of God’s name, which should be strengthened and supported.
Tzohar’s wedding project has also been a tremendous resource for many couples from here in the United States and other areas of the Golah looking to celebrate their weddings in the Jewish state. Many of these couples would not have had the opportunity to create as joyous and meaningful a wedding were it not for the work of Tzohar.
We call upon the political and rabbinic establishment in Israel to ease this process and not put up more roadblocks that cause dissention and create difficulties for those who would avail themselves of this avenue of Huppah and Kiddushin. We include in this ensuring the right of every Israeli citizen to register for weddings in the municipality of their choosing regardless of residency.
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