Survey finds support for civil marriage among observant Israeli Jews

The building of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel is located in Jerualem. The Rabbinate has jurisdiction over many aspects of life of Jews in Israel. Its jurisdiction includes personal status issues, such as Jewish marriages and Jewish divorce, as well as Jewish burials, Conversion to Judaism, Kashrut and kosher certification, olim, supervision of Jewish holy sites, working with various mikvaot and yeshivot, and overseeing Israeli Rabbinical courts. Photo by Flash90

The Israeli Chief Rabbinate, pictured above, does not recognize non-Orthodox conversions, posing problems for Reform and Conservative converts who want to marry in Israel. (Flash90)

(JTA) — A quarter of Israeli Jews, including 50 percent who identified as “traditional,” support civil marriage, according to a new survey.

Conducted by the Rafi Smith Institute for the Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah movement and released Wednesday, the survey found that 56 percent of Israelis agree that the current requirement that Jews there marry in a religious ceremony under the authority of the state Rabbinate increases the number of Israelis choosing to marry in a civil ceremony abroad instead.

Forty-two percent of self-described “traditional” Jews said that Israel’s religious legislation in its current scope is driving many Israelis away from Judaism.

The results suggested that religious observance and adherence to traditions do not necessarily mean support for Israel’s religious laws, aaccording to Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, an organization that seeks to promote “open and tolerant discourse” within Orthodoxy.

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Shmuel Shattach, director of Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, said the survey “slaughters a number of sacred cows.”

“First, it proves once and for all that the objection to the current state in the field of religion and state, does not mean an objection to religion,” he said. “On the contrary, many of those who care about the religion are opposed to the current religious legislation, precisely because of this concern.”

His movement supports proposals,  proposed by former chief Sephardi Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi-Doron and others, that would ease the Orthodox rabbinate’s monopoly over Jewish marriages sand allow marriages to be performed in Israel outside the framework of halachah, or Jewish law.

He continued, “It is time for the Israeli politicians, including the religious ones among them, to finally begin reflecting the sentiments of many within the Israeli society, including those who the religion and tradition are close to their hearts, through actions directed towards the rearrangement of the relations between religion and state.”