Marriage in the Rabbinate

Couples of the opposite sex and same religion that want to marry officially in Israel have no choice but to marry through the religious authorities. Jews marry in the Rabbinate, Muslims in a Shari’a court and Christians in their respective churches. Many are unaware that even couples who marry in a civil ceremony abroad are subject to the religious courts if they divorce, even if they are ineligible to marry religiously.

Couples that wish to marry religiously go through a religious status investigation before their marriage is approved. Immigrants, converts, and those with religious status issues may undergo invasive and expensive religious status investigation in which relatives are questioned, documents are scrutinized, and the couple may have to produce evidence of Jewish heritage from abroad, to be declared Jews eligible to marry. Even those who have lived their entire lives in Israel as Jews, or were previously declared Jews by religious authorities, may find that they have been declared ineligible for marriage in Israel. A couple may register in the Rabbinate up to one year before their marriage in order to leave ample time for religious status investigations.

One requirement for Jewish religious marriage is immersion in the mikveh, the ritual bath. A woman who fails to dip in the mikveh, while being supervised by a government-recognized rabinit, and get a certificate affirming this, will not receive a marriage certificate, and the couple’s marriage will not be recognized, even if all other Rabbinate procedure was followed.

Jewish weddings are conducted by an Orthodox rabbi authorized by the Rabbinate. They require a ceremony that takes place under the Chuppah in which the groom gives the bride a ring, prayers are recited, anda Ketubah, a Jewish marriage contract, is signed in front of two male witnesses. After the wedding, the signed Ketubah is returned to the Rabbinate and a marriage certificate is issued. With this marriage certificate, the couple can register in the Interior Ministry. In the Ketubah, the groom accepts a financial obligation towards the bride in case of divorce. Contrary to common belief, this obligation, which has been verified with his signature, binds him legally, and the bride has the right to claim the sum specified in the Ketubah in a rabbinical court. It is a contractual obligation in every respect and can be claimed unless the bride has explicitly waived this right in an agreement.

Critics see the Rabbinate as an archaic and misogynistic institution that discriminates against women.  Because a Jewish couple can’t divorce without the husband’s consent, women could be subject to pressure to cede property, assets or rights to be granted a divorce.  The Rabbinate is an all-male  institution that considers women unworthy to be judges or witnesses.

Because marriages performed by individuals other than rabbis authorized by the Rabbinate are illegal, secular Jews and adherents of egalitarian streams of Judaism can’t choose officiating rabbis who fit their belief system. Instead, they must choose between a religious marriage that contradicts their convictions, having a religious ceremony that answers their spiritual needs but is not recognized by law, or living as a common-law couple without a marriage certificate. New Family sees this as a violation of religious freedom and human rights.

New Family offers the only civil solution to marriage for all couples in Israel – Domestic Union Cards™