Local rabbis have been allowed to charge extra fees even though marriages are listed among their existing duties as regional rabbis.
Bill still pending 3 additional Knesset readings before final approval, with 61 MKs voting in favor in the preliminary reading.
By Israel Hayom Staff
A current bill, approved in its preliminary reading on Wednesday, is aiming to prevent local rabbis from accepting payment or any other compensation for officiating the marriage ceremonies of couples who live within their area of jurisdiction.
A Jewish wedding [illustrative] – Photo: AP
The bill was submitted by Habayit Hayehudi MKs Shuli Mualem and Moti Yogev and was approved in the Knesset by a majority of 61 MKs.
Currently, the law does not prevent rabbis, employed by the state-run regional religious councils, from charging fees for marrying couples. The rabbis currently charge extra fees even though marrying couples is listed among their existing duties as regional rabbis – a job for which they are paid by the state. This creates a situation where regional rabbis generally earn more than other state employees.
Mualem’s and Yogev’s bill seeks to regulate the circumstances under which the rabbis can and cannot charge additional compensation for their services.
This issue was first addressed by attorney-general Menachem Mazuz in 2009. He then issued a list of guidelines, including a ban on a rabbi of a town, neighborhood, city or region from charging for marrying couples as long as at least one of the two people lives within his jurisdiction. The guidelines also attempted to regulate the rabbis’ private engagements. But these guidelines didn’t fully remedy the situation as they do not apply to other types of pubic rabbis like chief rabbis or rabbinical judges.
In addition, Mazuz’s guidelines permit rabbis to charge a fee when the couple does not reside in the rabbi’s immediate jurisdiction. The problem arises when, for example, the rabbi of a particular neighborhood marries a couple that does not live in that neighborhood, but does live within the jurisdiction of the regional council that pays that rabbi’s salary. Furthermore, Mazuz’s guidelines do not include a ceiling on how much a rabbi is permitted to charge, and in certain cases even exempts rabbis from reimbursement in the event of a cancellation.
Speaking of the bill, Mualem said that “young couples carry a very heavy financial burden. This bill seeks to revolutionize the field of marriage services in Israel and to put an end to the confusion regarding payment for wedding services. It is precisely in these days of budget cuts that it is important to look for ways to alleviate the burden on the public.”
View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=10139