Israeli Rabbinate creates marriage blacklists

A huppah (wedding canopy) in an event hall in Israel (Photo: Marchi Aronov/Wikimedia Commons)

KNI recently highlighted a case in which the Chief Rabbinate prevented a Messianic Jewish couple from marrying in Israel. As the article noted, Messianics are not the only Israeli citizens who are blocked from marrying in the land. However it is now reported that the Chief Rabbinate has created two “blacklists” of citizens who are to be blocked from marriage in the country.

Israel does not grant the right to a non-religious, or “civil,” marriage. Everyone must marry according to the religion — for example Jewish, Muslim or Greek Orthodox — to which their community belongs. Interfaith marriage is not permissible, although such marriages are recognized provided they are performed outside the country.

Jewish marriages in Israel must be performed under the authority of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the rabbinical courts. This powerful religious authority is preventing citizens whom it deems not to be Jewish from marrying in Israel.

In what it claims to be its “moral obligation” to prevent non-Jews from marrying Jews, the Rabbinate has created a “Prevented from Marrying” list for those who are definitely not Jewish and a “Requires Jewish Status Clarification” for those who have not satisfied investigators of their Jewish heritage. Those on the former list may certainly not marry in Israel while those on the latter will likely never be allowed to marry unless they provide proof of Jewishness that meets the rabbinical standard.

The ban extends to the person’s children and their maternal relatives including aunts, cousins and siblings.

While the lists have been around for some time, new data has shown that hundreds of people are being added to them every year. As at May 2017, 6,787 people were on the lists. The number of people classified as non-Jews by rabbinic courts reportedly increased 450 percent between 2001 and 2006. The number of citizens placed on the “Requires Jewish Status Clarification” list was reported to have increased 100 percent during the same period.

The lists particularly affect around 1 million citizens who made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) from the former USSR and are now finding their Jewish heritage is being questioned such that even their right to marry in their homeland is in danger.

The Israeli NGO ITIM, which provides resources and advocacy for Jews, has now filed a petition to the High Court of Justice to prevent rabbinical courts from investigating the Jewish status of citizens who have not asked them to do so.