Israeli police question Conservative rabbi for performing a marriage

Rabbi Dov Dubi Haiyun (The Schechter Institutes)

Rabbi Dov Dubi Haiyun (The Schechter Institutes)

(JTA) – A Conservative rabbi in Israel was awakened by police early Thursday morning and taken in for questioning over performing an illegal marriage ceremony.

Rabbi Dov Dubi Haiyun, who lives in Haifa, was taken to a local police station by two officers at 5:30 a.m. for questioning after the Haifa Rabbinical Court filed a complaint against him for conducting a marriage ceremony of a couple in violation of state and religious law. One member of the couple is Jewish, but was born out of an extramarital affair, making her a mamzer, or bastard, and unable to marry according to Jewish law.

According to a 2013 law, it is illegal to perform a marriage ceremony in Israel outside of the Chief Rabbinate, Haaretz reported. The Chief Rabbinate would not have allowed such a marriage to take place.

Haiyun said in a post on Facebook that Haifa’s Orthodox rabbinical court “filed a complaint against me for performing weddings.”

“Iran is already here,” he said in the post, written from the Haifa Police Station. He urged his followers to share the post.

Haiyun has been officiating in Israel at non-Orthodox weddings for decades, according to reports.

Police said they arrested Haiyun after he failed to heed a summons to appear for questioning earlier this week. He was released hours after his arrest after he said he would return to the station for questioning on Monday, the Times of Israel reported, citing a police spokesperson. He later was informed that he did not have to appear and would be summoned again if the need arose.

The cancellation of the summons came after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered police to halt their investigation until they determine if Haiyun committed a criminal offense.

The wedding ceremony in question took place two years ago, Haaretz reported.

Haiyun is the spiritual leader of Moriah Congregation, the oldest Conservative, or Masorti, synagogue in Israel, which was founded in 1954. He is the director of the Midreshet Schechter network of adult education programs.

Haiyun later on Thursday was a featured speaker at a pre-Tisha B’Av study session with secular, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox scholars at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem hosted by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

“It is unpleasant to be dragged out of bed for an investigation into the existence of a Jewish wedding ceremony conducted according to the Laws of Moses and Israel,” Haiyun was quoted as saying in a Facebook post by Rabbi Yitzhar Hess of Israel’s Masorti movement. “I am not an offender. I am not a murderer. I am not a criminal. It is hard for me to think of a less Jewish act to occur on the eve of Tisha’B’Av. The police were dragged in to be the janitor for the Rabbinical Court. It is a sad day for democracy in Israel.”

ITIM, an organization seeking to reform Israel’s Rabbinate-dominated marriage policy, said it was outraged by the treatment of Haiyun by the police.

“Israel has a moral and legal responsibility to respect Jewish practice. If the rabbinate would commit itself to solving problems of those who can’t get married rather than engaging in public relations to promote its version of orthodoxy, Jews would be more connected to their Jewish lives and to Israel,” said Rabbi Seth Farber, director of ITIM, in a statement.

Farber also noted that the incident came on the same day that Israel’s Knesset passed a law, opposed by many Jewish groups in the Diaspora, defining itself as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

“The timing of this could not be worse. At a time when the liberal movements in the United States are feeling disenfranchised, this unprecedented incident will further alienate Jews from Israel,” he said.

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