They receive a salary from State, but make hundreds to thousands more for weddings, bar mitzvah lessons. New protocol limits rabbis' private work done on the side. Attorney general decides to stem tide of cash cow of under-the-table religious ceremoniesTova Tzimuki • Ynet
As they go from wedding to wedding, and from one bar mitzvah student to the next, rabbis often rake in no small sum of money. Many rabbis, considered civil servants, charge hundreds to thousands of shekels for a wedding even though they receive a salary from the State.
Complaints submitted by various sources, including former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau and current Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger about the sums of money many rabbis receive, prompted the Justice Ministry to examine the issue.
The examination revealed that the parameters for what is allowed and what is not are unclear in the absence of any rules regulating the issue of work done on the side. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ordered that the issue be resolved. Following the joint effort of the Justice Ministry, the Chief Rabbinate, and the Religious Services Ministry, new guidelines were published Tuesday.
The guidelines stipulate that a city, council, town, or neighborhood rabbi may not receive payment for performing a wedding for someone living in his jurisdiction. However, if you plan on choosing a rabbi from your town for your wedding that is more than 15 kilometers (about 9.5 miles) from his designated area, he is permitted to ask that you pay his travel expenses and, if needed, a cancellation fee.
If a couple wishes to be married by a rabbi from outside their town, the rabbi is allowed to ask for payment for his services. However, there are a number of qualifications the rabbi must have before accepting the job.
For example, the rabbi must receive authorization from a qualified official. Once authorization is received, the rabbi must turn to the relevant body – either the Chief Rabbinate, the city's rabbi, or the religious council depending on what type of work it is – detailing the extent and nature of the work and his salary from the past six months.
In any case, rabbis will no longer be able to make the rounds among many weddings in one night since they are now limited to performing only two in one evening, regardless of whether he receives payment for them. The hours of work a rabbi dedicates to doing private work is also limited by the new guidelines. In addition, rabbis will be obligated to report all money received from performing religious services to the tax authorities.
The Reform Movement, which was an active player in establishing the criteria for paying rabbis for their work, praised the new guidelines on Tuesday.
Nissan Shtrauchler contributed to this report