Amidst a growing trend of Israeli couples looking for options for halachic marriage outside the confines of the Chief Rabbinate, Tzohar Rabbonim announce that their rabbinical volunteers around the country are scheduled to perform close to 650 marriage ceremonies this month.
Tzohar, which commemorates its 20th anniversary this year, presents an alternative to couples wishing to get married without the direct involvement of the central religious authorities charged with oversight for marriage and divorce but still want a chupah that is recognized by the Chief Rabbinate and state authorities.
In recent years, many young couples, particularly those from within the secular Israeli community, have sought to avoid the Chief Rabbinate’s involvement in marriage, claiming that the authority promoted a sense of religious coercion that left non-observant, as well as some observant Israelis feeling alienated. Tzohar assigns each couple a rabbi who carries them through the entire pre-marriage and wedding process with an informed, compassionate and non-judgmental approach while also providing pre-marriage counselors for the brides.
“The growing success of our marriage program is a testament to the need that we see amongst young Israelis for a compassionate partner at this all-important time in their lives and not simply a bureaucrat who will just rubber stamp – or deny- their wedding request,” says Rabbi David Stav, Founder and Chairman of Tzohar. “The feelings of alienation that can be imposed by a dispassionate clerk from the Chief Rabbinate who cares little for the emotions and background of a couple can leave them feeling not only uncared for but has the longer-term effect of pushing young Israelis away from tradition, religious observance and even pride in their Jewish identities.”
Since its founding in 1996, Tzohar, which was established in the wake of the Rabin assassination to help address social divides in Israel’s Jewish society, has performed over 50,000 weddings. Most months see between 350 and 400 weddings thus making September a record breaking month for the organization which says that included will be a sizable number of couples from abroad who are choosing to marry in Israel.
“We are proud that we are able to offer these couples this option which reminds them that Jewish tradition is about beauty and kindness and that’s more true than ever at this happy time in their lives,” says Rabbi Boaz Genut, Director of Tzohar’s Marriage Program. “We wish every one of these young couples the biggest of mazal tov wishes and look forward to helping many thousands more in the months and years ahead.”
In coordination with the rise in wedding ceremonies, and facing the reality of nearly one in three Israeli divorces involving a struggle to give or receive a get (religious divorce), Tzohar is also pushing to help stem the agunah problem by encouraging the newlyweds to sign a prenuptial agreement. “With a simple signature, you are demonstrating the ultimate in trust by saving your loved one from the types of pain that none of us can foresee,” says Rabbi Uriel Ganzel who directs the Heskem M’Ahava, “Agreement from Love” program for Tzohar that has seen close to 1,000 couples sign since the initiative was launched. “But even more so, by encouraging the continued growth in popularity of this agreement you can play a part in a real social revolution that we believe will eventually rid society of the challenges of get refusal and agunos.”
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)