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National Council of Jewish Women Calls on Israel To Sanction Civil Marriage and Divorce

The National Council of Jewish Women called on the Jewish state to create a system of civil marriage and divorce in what was seen as a landmark move.

“The monopoly of authority given to Orthodox rabbinical courts in Israel regarding issues of personal status, particularly marriage, weakens rather than strengthens the state itself by causing disunity, disrespect for the law, and even hostility among Israelis and between Israel and Jews abroad,” according to a statement released Monday by the NCJW board of directors.

Rabbi David Saperstein, the director of the Reform movements Religious Action Center, said it was the first time a mainstream U.S. Jewish group joined non-Orthodox groups in making such a call.

“What’s important to me is that an organization beyond the religious streams is beginning to call for that,” he told JTA. “That’s an important step forward. I deeply commend the NCJW for doing so and ask all Jewish organizations to join the fight for freedom of marriage.”

While the NCJW board noted it was “committed to the letter and spirit of respect for democratic values and civil liberties,” the grass-roots organization called on Israel to “take immediate measures to create a mechanism for civil marriage.”

According to NCJW, the lack of civil marriages forces “thousands of Israeli couples every year to leave Israel for a civil marriage abroad” and alienates “approximately 350,000 Israeli citizens from the former Soviet Union” who are not considered halachically Jewish.

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