The Chief Rabbinate has demanded that the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) cease a campaign encouraging alternative-religious marriages, fearing that it will mislead the public. According to the Rabbinate, the radio broadcasts encouraging couples to choose an egalitarian-religious ceremony could lead listeners to mistakenly conclude that such ceremonies are recognized by the state authorities, while they actually have no legal meaning.
In recent weeks, the Voice of Israel(Kol Yisrael) station has been running commercials for the "Egalitarian Marriage" campaign of the Reform, Conservative, and the Israel Hofsheet ("Free Israel") movements. In four broadcasts, created by Studio Ran Lutski, persons describe how they recommended that their children and grandchildren marry in alternative Jewish weddings, rather than via the Rabbinate, and they call on the public to follow their example.
Those responsible for the campaign state that these weddings are not recognized by the state for modifying one's personal status in the Population Registry, though they at times treat it as an advantage. "It's not what's important in love," says one groom's grandfather. A bride's grandmother adds, "If something happens, she can split up easily." A separate broadcast states, "An egalitarian marriage is not recognized by the Ministry of the Interior for the purposes of registering it as a marriage in any way."
The Chief Rabbinate is not satisfied with that clear disclaimer, and its legal advisor, Harel Goldberg, wrote in a letter to the senior deputy legal advisor to the IBA, Tomer Karni, that they insist on the authority's rejecting the broadcasts as they are currently worded.
"There is insufficient clarification involved in the campaign that the wedding ceremony is not recognized for the purposes of registration in the Ministry of the Interior," Goldberg wrote. "It is essential to state that these marriages are not recognized by the state for any intents or purposes."
He claimed that since the ceremony is described as "Jewish according to tradition," the listeners are likely to be misled and think that it also has legal meaning in Israel.
Goldberg stated that the legislature has created clear regulation regarding marriages recognized in Israel and deemed that they are to be carried out "according to Torah law" only. While there is no criminal restriction on holding alternative ceremonies that are not recognized by the state, Goldberg claims that there is still a fear of deception.
Israel Hofsheet responded, "We are sorry that the Rabbinate, which fears losing its relevance in Israeli society, is employing tools of force to keep the public from its right to start a family according to their own beliefs."
The broadcasts were approved by the IBA before going on the air, and their goal is to permit young couples and their families to become familiar with the options available to them today, including traditional ceremonies with a Jewish character but that also contain egalitarian characteristics that respect both the bride and groom.
"More and more couples today, from all walks of social and religious life in Israel, are challenging the monopoly of the Rabbinate and proving that they can (hold a Jewish marriage) without going through the rabbinical institution.
"The couples status, even though they can't register in the Ministry of the Interior, is completely identical, and they enjoy the same rights exactly like those couples who marry via the Rabbinate, except for matters of surrogacy and adoption."
The IBA has stated, "The Chief Rabbinate's claims were received by the Broadcasting Authority yesterday and have not yet been examined.
"On the face of the matter, the Broadcasting Authority believes that the campaign was not at all misleading. In any case, as of now, the campaign is not being broadcast anymore."
The Chief Rabbinate has not issued a reply to these statements.