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Kosher couples go overseas to avoid Israeli Rabbinate

TJI Pick
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Published: 18 April 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

Report finds one in three Israeli couples who had an overseas civil marriage could have had a religious ceremony in Israel.

As an Israeli couple with a straightforwardly Jewish pedigree, Yoni Zierler and Yochi Rappeport could have easily gotten married through the Chief Rabbinate.

But instead, they tied the knot abroad in a US civil ceremony, enabling the couple to officially be registered by the Jewish state as married.

The couple were responding to what they perceive as the ultra-Orthodox-dominated Rabbinate’s attempts to establish a monopoly on Judaism and the exclusion of same-sex couples.

The sentiment they expressed is commonplace, according to a new report on religion and state, which found that about a third of all Israelis who choose to get married abroad in a civil ceremony are Jews who likely would have been allowed to tie the knot at home through the Rabbinate had they wanted to.

This figure from the Israel Democracy Institute’s Biennial Statistical Report on Religion and State in Israel is among multiple findings in the document underlining both a widening disconnect between many Israeli Jews and the state’s religious authorities on the one hand, and a relatively high level of adherence to religious customs and norms among the public on the other hand.

Thousands of couples have encountered religious matrimonial restrictions in Israel, where the only marriages performed locally that the state recognises are religious unions between partners of the same faith conducted by an authorised cleric.

The government does, however, recognise civil marriages by Israelis conducted abroad, making such unions a popular workaround: More than 66,000 couples who were residents of Israel have gotten married abroad since 2001.

More than half  could not have been married in Israel for various reasons, most commonly because they were from different religions.

Many Jews eligible to marry via Rabbinate elect to do so abroad instead — survey (Times of Israel)

Photo: A wedding in Cyprus, where many Israelis choose to marry (marrymecyprus.co)

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