End Orthodox Monopoly on Jewish Marriage in Israel

Time Has Come To Allow Civil Marriage for All

Marriage Madness: Why should Orthodox rabbis have the final say on how all Jews get married and divorced in Israel?
getty images
Marriage Madness: Why should Orthodox rabbis have the final say on how all Jews get married and divorced in Israel?

By Nancy K. Kaufman

Published May 22, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

After 65 years, the State of Israel is a thriving democracy of which we can all be very proud in many areas. But it is a democracy that continues to face many obstacles to preserving its Jewish and democratic character.

One obstacle that is of particular concern to non-Orthodox Jews is the absence of any possibility for civil marriage and divorce. Until marriage is no longer controlled by the Orthodox rabbinical courts, the Jewish homeland will continue to exclude many Jews from celebrating joyous occasions in their cultural epicenter.

If we believe Israel is meant to be a homeland for all Jews, not just Orthodox Jews, we must fight against a system in which matrimony is reserved for the most religious rather than being inclusive of all Jews whatever their religious practice.

Every year, thousands of Israeli couples are wed outside of the country in civil ceremonies in order to be recognized as legally married, since Israel does have an obligation to recognize marriages performed in other countries. But for many Jews living in Israel or in the Diaspora, celebrating joyous occasions and other life milestones in the Jewish homeland is an opportunity to connect with their heritage.

Even as Israel is seen as a safe-haven for the LGBT community and a progressive leader on many other domestic matters, marriage has not experienced the same type of institutional transformation. The fact of the matter is that not every Jew qualifies for an Orthodox Jewish wedding. As it stands now, in the next generation many American Jews (some say as many as two-thirds of us) would not be permitted to marry in Israel.

Today, significant portions of the population are barred from marrying within Israel. Nearly 350,000 Israeli citizens from the former Soviet Union (who gained citizenship under the Law of Return) cannot marry because their mothers or grandmothers are not Jewish according to the Jewish legal framework.

Diaspora Jews who have had non-Orthodox conversions are eligible to obtain Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return but may not be recognized as Jews by the Chief Rabbinate and thus cannot marry.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.