Exclusive: Rabbis perform 'fake' weddings for mixed couples in exchange for money

The Tzohar organization of rabbis blames the Chief Rabbinate for setting the ground for such phenomenon by imposing immense difficulties on people who wish to convert to Judaism.
Photo credit: Phongphon Sutantayawalee, 123RF/Channel 2 News

Certified rabbis in Israel are secretly performing illegal wedding ceremonies for couples who are halachically forbidden from getting married in exchange for money, a Channel 2 News report has revealed. The Ministry of Religious Services stated they would examine these findings and handle them, calling them "very serious."

The ceremonies, according to incognito audio statements from some of the rabbis themselves, look exactly like any "kosher" wedding except it has no legal status whatsoever and is done solely for the purpose of putting on a show for the couple's families and friends.

"I am risking my career here," said one of the rabbis who perform these ceremonies. "I come with a ketubah and everything, no one needs to know a thing. This service costs 3,000 shekels. I do it in a very impressive and interesting way. The guests will never know the difference from a real wedding."

Photo credit: Channel 2 News

The liberal Tzhohar organization, whose rabbis support a non-coercive approach to Judaism, condemned this phenomenon and said it is related directly to the difficulties in Giyur – conversion to Judaism – which are imposed by the Chief Rabbinate on many Israelis, mainly immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

"This is a disgrace to the tradition of wedding ceremonies, to religion and to the entire Rabbinate institution," the organization said. "Unfortunately, it is part of a reality where there are no proper halachic conversion procedures, as Tzohar has been trying to push through for years."

Sagi Agmon, who heads the Hiddush organization – an acronym in Hebrew for Religious Freedom and Equality – also blamed the Chief Rabbinate for shaping the reality which triggered this situation. "People are simply being forced to find alternate, twisted ways in order to fulfil their love," he said. "A small minority is forcing all of us to surrender to dictations that don't fit Israel of 2016. It may be suitable for Saudi Arabia."

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