At first I thought they were just joking. I couldn’t believe it could actually be mandatory for women to have to take a family purity class with an Orthodox rabbi in order to be given permission to marry. Then, slightly distraught, the bride to be comes rushing in the room, confirmed the story, and sat in speechless silence for a few minutes contemplating her experience which, for a non-religious modern woman, I can imagine must be hard to swallow.
All Israeli Jewish weddings must be approved of by the Orthodox rabbinate, leading a growing number of Israelis to marry abroad because they either do not meet Halachic standards of Judaism or they don’t want to have to. Civil marriages within Israel are not recognized, nor are marriages that do not meet halachic standards, which raises the question ‘how Jewish is Jewish enough?’
Judaism is, yes, a religion, but it is also an ethnicity, a culture, and above all, a people. Almost half of Israeli Jews define themselves as secular, and believe that being ethnically Jewish is sufficient enough to be called a Jew without the practice of religion. Even less, only 27% of Jews claim to keep the Sabbath, which begs the question of why there is still no public transportation on Shabbat.
Marriage has nothing to do with religionWhy does Israel try to impose Orthodox standards on a population that is increasingly non-traditional? Usually the argument I hear is that Israel is a Jewish state that needs to retain its Jewish identity so it can remain a home for Jews around the world. While I can understand this sentiment, I don’t believe that imposing religious law in any form upon its citizens is helpful.
Why should ANY Israeli have to leave the country in order to marry the person that they choose to spend their life with? Marriage is a choice between two people to create a life together that has nothing to do with religion. Just as marriage has nothing to do with religion, religion should have nothing to do with law, even in a state that defines itself as Jewish.
I’ve met new oleh who moved to Israel with the intent of further realizing their Judaism, by deepening their faith in a place where access to Jewish knowledge and culture are so readily available.
So, who is the better Jew?I don’t think that any specific rabbinate should have the right to tell us how to answer this question. Judaism is about identifying with the Jewish people, and sharing in a history, in a culture, that we are all connected by. We are glued together because we were born Jews regardless of how as adults we keep that practice. Jews should look out for each other with or without keeping kosher, keeping the Sabbath, or any other law of Orthodox Judaism.