Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Orthodox couples opt for illegal halachic weddings

Dissatisfied by old school patriarchy, many modern religious couples are marrying outside the Israeli rabbinate

By Amanda Borschel-Dan for Times of Israel

Orthodox couplesIt was a back-alley religious wedding. The bride, in her 30s, an Orthodox Russian-immigrant divorcée. The groom, a 40-something native Israeli. The wedding hall, a dingy, cramped three-room Jerusalem apartment.

They were married by an Orthodox rabbi, accompanied by a sliver of the groom’s large Yemenite family and a few friends. Blessings were recited under the huppah and, as in Yemenite custom, ash was sprinkled to symbolize the destruction of the Temple. A glass was broken. Burekas, Israeli salads and pita followed in the first of the couple’s traditional Sheva Brachot meals.

Fourteen years ago, this couple decided to marry outside the Israeli Chief Rabbinate for a variety of personal and pragmatic reasons: She’d had a hard time with her halachic divorce through the rabbinate; he preferred living off the grid. And the couple didn’t have much money to spare on the relatively hefty registration fee.

“I feel free having married without the rabbinate,” the bride told The Times of Israel recently. “I decided that, whether we split or not, this will be my final wedding,” she said. She added that she is unconcerned about possible halachic problems, including hypothetically becoming an aguna — an anchored woman — if the marriage dissolves, and is sure their two daughters cannot be considered mamzerim (bastards).

This couple is hardly alone in choosing to marry outside the auspices of the rabbinate. Reform/Conservative Jews, the disenfranchised secular, and some 400,000 Israelis who are Jewish enough to be citizens, but not considered halachically Jewish to marry through the rabbinate, often marry abroad or in independent, unrecognized ceremonies.

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