Bills to relax marriage registration rules pass Knesset committee


JERUSALEM — Two bills that would allow Jewish couples in Israel to be married by national-religious rabbis in the city of their choice were approved by a Knesset committee.

The so-called “Tzohar laws,” named after the organization of Modern Orthodox rabbis that performs alternative religious wedding ceremonies for nonreligious couples, would remove jurisdictional hurdles that prevent the organization’s rabbis from performing wedding ceremonies recognized by the office of the Chief Rabbinate.

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The bills, one proposed by Faina Kirshenbaum of the Israel Beiteinu Party and the other initiated by Otniel Schneller of the Kadima Party, passed the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Sunday by a vote of 4-3, the Jerusalem Post reported. They will now move to the full Knesset for a first reading. Members of religious parties voted against the bills.

Currently, Jewish couples must register with the rabbinate in the city or region of residence of one member of the couple.

The legislation comes after Tzohar was given approval to register couples in the community of Shoham, where the head of the organization serves as chief rabbi, following a threat by the Religious Services Ministry to limit the number of marriages that the community would be allowed to register. The threat led to Tzohar briefly cancelling its services.  

A Jewish couple must have a religious ceremony in Israel in order to be recognized as married. Many travel abroad to marry in secular ceremonies.