Sefardi Haredi Rabbi Refuses To Allow Ethiopian Jews To Marry
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The Sefardi chief rabbi of the Israeli city of Petah Tikva has allegedly repeatedly refused to allow Ethiopian Jewish couples to marry, forcing them to leave the city and get married elsewhere, the Times of Israel reported based on a report on Army Radio.
Rabbi Benjamin Atias is a member of the Sefardi haredi Shas Party and the brother of former Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias. He allegedly refuses to grant permission for the Ethiopian Jews to marry because he denies (or questions) their Jewishness.
10,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Petah Tikva.
Dachilo Abaye, an Ethiopian Jew Atias refused to allow to marry, reportedly told Army Radio that members of his community were getting married exiled from the city with “hatred for the rabbinate” instead of “joy and happiness.”
“No one can question the Jewishness of Jewish Ethiopians,” Abaye insisted.
There are no civil marriages in Israel. Mixed marriages between Jews and non-Jews are not allowed (unless the Jew converts first to another recognized religion). And all Israeli Jews are forced to marry through the country’s haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate and its local affiliates.
Until a new law was passed over vehement haredi objections in October 2013, Jewish Israelis were forced to marry in the city where their official residence was located. They needed rabbinic approval for the marriage, and the marriage had to be performed by a local state-sanctioned and state-employed Orthodox rabbi like Atais.
But since October, Jewish Israelis are free to some extent rabbi-shop and can marry outside their home communities. However, all of the other restrictions on marriage, including the necessity to have the ceremony conducted by a state-approved Orthodox rabbi and the need to have a marriage registrar who works under the authority of those Orthodox rabbis approve the marriage beforehand.
“The law and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel’s procedure mandates that any rabbi who registers marriages serve every Jewish Israeli citizen without discrimination, including members of the Ethiopian community. If a breach of the law or procedure will be discovered in this case, the issue will be thoroughly investigated and rectified,” Israel’s Chief Rabbinate reportedly said in a statement.
Several months ago, the state-recognized chief rabbi of Israel’s Ethiopian Jewish community, Rabbi Yosef Adana, reportedly told the Chief Rabbinate about Atias’ refusal to marry Ethiopian Jews. That reportedly led to a special arrangement that gives 14 Ethiopian rabbis special permission to act as marriage registrars and perform marriages for Ethiopian Jews.
Atias’ behavior is odd because his former leader and mentor, the late supreme Sefardi haredi leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, ruled in 1973 as Israel’s Sefardi Chief Rabbi that Ethiopian Jews are 100% Jewish and do not need to be converted. Yosef ruling as adopted by the entire Chief Rabbinate in the late 1980s and became the law of the land.
However, except for followers of Yosef and a handful of Ashkenazi haredi rabbis, haredim completely reject Yosef’s ruling and the subsequent decisions by the Chief Rabbinate and the country to follow it. Some recognize as Jewish only Ethiopian Jews who have undergone conversion through a recognized Orthodox beit din (religious court) while others refuse to recognize Ethiopian Jews as Jewish unless their conversions were done through an Ashkenazi haredi beit din.