'Rabbis performing marriages with non-Jews'

Report reveals Orthodox rabbis performing fictitious marriages in Israel between Jews and non-Jews.

David Rosenberg ,

Marriage contract (ketuba), ring
Marriage contract (ketuba), ring
Israel news photo (Flash 90)

A number of Israeli rabbis, authorized by the Rabbinate to perform weddings recognized by the state, have been conducting fictitious wedding ceremonies between Jews and non-Jews, a new report by Channel 2 has revealed.

Under Israeli law – a holdover from the Ottoman rulers prior to the British Mandate – weddings performed in Israel are recognized only through religious authorities – be they Jewish, Muslim, or Christian.

With no civil marriage system, individuals affiliated with different religions are unable to have state-recognized marriages performed in Israel. Many travel to nearby Cyprus to wed.

A number of rabbis, however, are apparently performing such weddings, marrying Jews to non-Jews – in violation of both Israeli state law and the Jewish religious prohibition on intermarriage.

The ceremonies, conducted for a hefty fee, enable the couples to claim Israeli marriage licenses.

According to a report by Channel 2, the phenomenon is far from rare, with a number of couples revealing that the rabbis willing to perform such ceremonies were well known among non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who made up the bulk of the non-Jews involved in such marriages.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Religious Services responded to the report, saying that the matter “sounds very serious and will be thoroughly investigated and dealt with”.

Several rabbis admitted to Channel 2 they were involved in such fictitious weddings, according to the report.

One said he charged 3,000 shekels ($800) for his services, adding that he gave customers their money’s worth.

“I come with a Ketuba [wedding contract] and everything you need and perform [the wedding] according to religious tradition. No one needs to know anything. The service costs 3,000 shekels. I make a very impressive and interesting wedding service; the guests aren’t bored and certainly don’t feel the difference between this and the real thing.” The wedding, however, while illegal in Israel, is also a sham halakhically.