JERUSALEM (JTA) – A rabbinical organization in Israel called for a police investigation of the Chief Rabbinate of Haifa following a report that the rabbinate denied couples’ requests to marry due to their affiliation with the group.
Tzohar, which is comprised of religious Zionist rabbis who aim to bridge the religious-secular divide of Jews in Israel, launched its call for a probe after Israel’s Channel 2 reported that the Haifa Rabbinate denied licenses to couples who registered to marry using Tzohar rabbis to perform the ceremonies.
According to the report, more than 100 couples from the Haifa area were sent notices by the rabbinate that their requests were being denied for a variety of reasons that were proven to be false. The reasons ranged from claiming that either the husband or wife was not Jewish, that they previously had been married or that they were the children of a relationship conceived out of wedlock.
In the Channel 2 report, senior officials from the Haifa Rabbinate admitted the denials were not substantiated.
Israel’s Religious Services Ministry told Channel 2 it would investigate the accusations and take disciplinary action if required.
Under current procedures, while the Tzohar rabbis perform the actual marriage ceremony, including pre-wedding counseling, the couples still require official registration through the local rabbinate. Thousands of couples, many secular, choose to marry with Tzohar, citing a more compassionate and understanding approach to the marriage process over the more bureaucratic operation associated with the central rabbinical offices.
Rabbi David Stav, the founder and president of Tzohar, called on the Israel Police commissioner, the state attorney general and the state prosecutor to open a criminal investigation against the Haifa Rabbinate.
“The actions by officials in the Rabbinate constitute serious transgressions of falsifying documents, misuse of a position of influence, fraud and breach of trust,” Stav said in a letter released by Tzohar.