JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Tzohar Rabbinical Organization has called on the Israel Police to investigate the Chief Rabbinate of Haifa following a report that it denied couple’s requests to marry due to their affiliation with the group.
The call Sunday for police to launch a criminal investigation by Tzohar, an organization made up of religious Zionist rabbis who aim to bridge the gaps between religious and secular Jews in Israel, comes after Israel’s Channel 2 news reported that the Haifa Chief Rabbinate denied marriage 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 who had registered with Tzohar rabbis to perform their marriages were sent notices by the Rabbinate that their requests were being denied for a variety of reasons that were proven to be completely false. Reasons for denials 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 Two report, senior officials from the Haifa Rabbinate admitted that the denials were not substantiated.
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, founder and president of Tzohar, called on the Israel Police Commissioner, the State Attorney General and the State Proesecutor to open a criminal investigation against the Haifa Rabbinate. In a letter released by Tzohar, Rabbi Stav said: “The actions by officials in the Rabbinate constitute serious transgressions of falsifying documents, misuse of a position of influence, fraud and breach of trust.”
The Religious Services Ministry told Channel 2 it would investigate the accusations and take disciplinary action if required.