Fall 2008

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MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Fall 2008

Masorti Urges Israelis to "Play the Wedding Game"Masorti Urges Israelis to "Play the Wedding Game"

Coinciding with the start of the post-Shavuot wedding season in Israel, the Masorti Movement launched in June a successful public relations blitz on the Internet and in broadcast and print media, to challenge the Orthodox monopoly on marriage ceremonies in Israel and to educate the public about Masorti Judaism.

Appealing to Israelis who are increasingly disenchanted with the established marriage system under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate, the Masorti Movement directed couples to a new online "wedding game" which conveyed the personalized, contemporary approach to wedding ceremonies that Masorti rabbis offer prospective brides and grooms. Go to to "play the wedding game".

"Our young people are being driven away from traditional marriage ceremonies by the difficulty of dealing with the Office of the Chief Rabbinate," observed Masorti Executive Director Yizhar Hess, "Under the guidelines of the 'Masorti chuppah,' couples may customize their ceremonies to meet their personal needs without sacrificing halakhic requirements and the connection to Jewish tradition. It is important to make all Israelis aware that this religious alternative exists."

Since Israeli law does not allow for civil marriage and defines marriage, like other personal status issues for Jews, as falling under the purview of the Orthodox rabbinate, couples interested in a Masorti ceremony are advised to have a civil ceremony performed outside of Israel to supplement the Masorti religious service so that their marriages will be legally recognized by the State.

Proof of the success of the Masorti Movement' appeal was seen not only in the 25,000 "hits" to the Masorti website but also in the reaction of Shas, the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox party, which petitioned the Israel Broadcasting Authority unsuccessfully to ban the Masorti campaign from the airwaves, on the grounds that the ad's use of the term "masorti", which means "traditional" and which is the official name of the Conservative Movement in Israel, "knowingly misleads and perpetrates a campaign of fraud against many citizens". As MK Ophir Pines-Paz, a leader of the Labor Party and a member of a Masorti congregation, responded, the Shas letter should be buried as "a foolish attempt at censorship."

Coinciding with the Masorti marriage campaign is a new government initiative being proposed, which would turn Israel into a single marriage registration zone. By this change, couples wishing to get married under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate would be able to use the services of the rabbinate bureau of their choice, as opposed to the office that oversees their residential area.

Since it is well known that some marriage registrars are more strict than others in requiring proof of Jewishness, a requirement that often becomes burdensome to Jewish immigrants and particularly to those who have converted to Judaism, giving couples the right to choose their rabbinate bureau would help ease the process for those who opt for a recognized Chief Rabbinate ceremony.

Though attacked by many Orthodox rabbis as "encouraging assimilation," Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel defended the change saying "I'm sorry to learn that people who have been properly converted by the religious establishment are so poorly treated in some places. If by chance, the proposed change will fix this problem as well, it would be a blessing."


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