Miami, August 5, 2018–It’s not easy, and sometimes it is not even possible to get married in an Orthodox ceremony in Israel, due to the strict regulations set by the Chief Rabbinate, which is the only body authorized to carry out Jewish marriages. But times are changing, and a new organization called Chuppot is challenging the Rabbinate’s monopoly over who is allowed to marry.
Chuppot is the first organization to openly enable any Jewish couple in Israel to marry in a halachically Orthodox ceremony outside of the framework of the Rabbinate. Targum Shlishi recently awarded a grant to Chuppot to help the organization market itself.
“Chuppot is addressing a real and urgent need in Israeli society. The Chief Rabbinate, in setting forth parameters for weddings that many Jews simply cannot fulfill, has been abusing its power for years,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “It is a travesty that the Rabbinate routinely refuses to marry Orthodox Jewish couples. Many of those who are affected by the refusal are immigrants who are not able to document their Jewishness according to the unreasonable standards set forth by the Rabbinate.”
Marriage in Israel
The Chief Rabbinate’s strict standards over who is allowed to marry is not the only issue—many argue that the overall climate fostered by the Rabbinate is negative, with marriage just one aspect of a growing polarity between the Rabbinate and much of society (other areas of discord include divorce, ritual immersion, kashrut, and conversion). This negative climate reflects the increasing divide in Israeli society overall, in which the Rabbinate is becoming increasingly extremist and isolated, while more moderate Orthodox and traditional Jews are seeking a Judaism that is more in tune with their values.
“The Rabbinate’s disrespectful, discriminatory approach has pushed many young people away and led them to seek alternative options,” explains Rabbi Chuck Davidson, Chuppot’s director of officiants. “Instead of seeking to gather the Israeli Jewish people together under the embrace of halachic Judaism, the Rabbinate sets unreasonable and unjustified barriers to halachic marriage even for those to whom Judaism is an integral part of their lives.”
The result? Many couples in the country, such as new or veteran immigrants or their children, have difficulty proving their Jewishness according to the Rabbinate’s current unreasonable and demanding standards, and undergo a harrowing process of investigation, at the end of which they are often still denied the right to marry. Thus many “kosher” Jews, Israeli citizens, are forced to marry outside the borders of the state or simply give up on halachic marriage.
Chuppot was founded to make halachic marriage outside the Rabbinate a possibility. “Chuppot’s goal is to enable every Jewish couple in Israel to stand under a chuppah and enter into the Jewish covenant of marriage in full accordance with the halacha,” says Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, founder of Hashgacha Pratit, the parent organization of Chuppot.
Chuppot’s process begins by matching each couple with rabbi who serves them throughout the process, from pre-marital agreements to the wedding ceremony and beyond. To date, several rabbis have joined Chuppot. In addition to working with the rabbi and the Chuppot team to prepare for the wedding, Chuppot encourages couples to consult with a marriage counselor, and provides financial support to couples for this aspect. Preparations include a prenuptial agreement, which is a condition of a Chuppot marriage.
Progress to Date
Chuppot began discretely, with a pilot stage in which it quietly conducted weddings while building its staff and infrastructure, including more active recruiting of additional rabbis. In June 2018, a successful Headstart campaign brought Chuppot to the attention of the public. Chuppot officially launched in late July 2018 with a media campaign and a website. The organization’s goal is to conduct more than one hundred weddings in its first year of operation.
Targum Shlishi’s Grant Supports PR and Marketing Efforts
Chuppot, now that its established, faces the challenge of getting the word out. Targum Shlishi’s grant is supporting a public relations effort that includes advertisement and social media exposure geared towards generation nationwide attention in order to reach a broad audience in Israel.
“Chuppot is doing much more than allowing people to have Orthodox marriages,” notes Aryeh Rubin. “In creating an alternative to the Rabbinate, and in empowering Israelis individually and collectively to have ownership in Jewish life cycle events, Chuppot is keeping Judaism relevant and alive.”
About Hashgacha Pratit
Chuppot is an initiative of Hashgacha Pratit, which has been working for several years to address inequities in Israel’s kashrut system (Targum Shlishi has supported these efforts as well). Hashgacha Pratit was established by Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, who is head of the Beit Midrash Sulam Yaakov in Nachlaot, chair of Nachlaot Community Council, and secretary general of the Yerushalmim party in the Jerusalem City Council. Hashgacha Pratit’s overarching goal is to impact the development of civil society in Israel by encouraging and empowering society to enact change and by promoting social cohesion and a sense of shared community. For more information on Chuppot, visit its website.
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi, a Raquel and Aryeh Rubin Foundation, is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website.