As part of its ongoing series on “Jewish Ideals & Current Dilemmas in Contemporary Zionism,” the Tikvah Overseas Seminars hosted two of Israel’s leading rabbinic activists to discuss recent legislation regarding marriage and conversion in Israel. Rabbi David Stav, chairman of theTzohar Rabbinic Organization, and Rabbi Dr. Seth Farber, founding director of ITIM, have worked together to promote bills that will allow greater numbers of municipal rabbis to register couples for marriage and perform conversions under the auspices of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. While heralded by some as an opportunity to prevent intermarriage by increasing the number of Israelis recognized as Jews, these initiatives have been criticized by others as further entrenchment of the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over marriage and conversion.
What problems might this legislation solve and what tensions will remain? Can broader solutions be provided by the rabbinic establishment—inside or outside of the Chief Rabbinate—or does the problem more fundamentally stem from the incompatibility of Orthodox Jewish law with the modern ethos? While Rabbis Stav and Farber worked together on these particular bills, their conversation highlights disagreements regarding civil marriage in Israel, conversion standards, and the ability of Jewish law to evolve. More broadly, their positions reflect different approaches toward reducing the tensions between the Jewish and democratic characters of the State of Israel.
The program was moderated by Rabbi Shlomo M. Brody, director of the Tikvah Overseas Seminars, who introduced the program with a brief history of Israeli legislation on these topics.
The event was recorded in Jerusalem on Feb 6, 2015.