Police are investigating how Haifa Rabbinate managed to obtain information about Israeli couples who wanted to be married by a rabbi from the Tzohar religious organization.
The investigation centers on officials in the Ministry for Religious Services, who are suspected fraud, breach of trust, and falsifying documents, Channel 2 television reported Sunday.
The rabbinate in Israel’s largest northern city has been accused of withholding marriage licenses from those couples who wanted a ceremony performed by Tzohar.
Tzohar — a rabbinical organization that seeks to bridge the gaps between Israel’s religious and secular Jews — last week asked police to open an investigation in the wake of a previous Channel 2 report that Haifa Rabbinate denied licences to more than 100 local couples who had registered with Tzohar. The various reasons given for the denials, the report said, were later proven to be completely unfounded.
The excuses included allegations that the couples involved had a non-Jewish member, that they had been married previously, or that they were the offspring of unmarried parents.
Senior officials from Haifa Rabbinate admitted that the reasons for rejection were unsubstantiated, the report said.
In Israel, the only legal route for Jews to marry is through the State Rabbinate. While the Tzohar rabbis perform the actual ceremony, as well as pre-wedding counseling, the couples must still complete official registration through their local rabbinate. Thousands of Israeli couples — many secular — choose to marry with Tzohar, citing a more compassionate and understanding approach to the marriage process as compared to the more bureaucratic process associated with the central rabbinical offices.