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Thou shall not marry: Israel's Rabbinate blacklists swelling number of Jews

The headquarters of the chief rabbinate in Tel Aviv, Israel, Nov. 5, 2016. The rabbinate is a state-sanctioned institution that controls all matter of marriage and divorce in Israel.
AP Photo/Dan Perry
Jews can only marry in Israel under the auspices of the ultra-Orthodox dominated Chief Rabbinate

The number of Israelis barred from marriage or whose Jewishness is considered in need of "clarification" has ballooned in recent years, according to data revealed on Sunday.

Jews can only marry in Israel under the auspices of the ultra-Orthodox dominated Chief Rabbinate.

In 2015 and 2016 the organization reportedly added around 900 individuals who are considered by the government to be Jewish but not Jewish enough to marry or access some other religious services.

The statistics compiled by the rabbinical courts were obtained by ITIM, an Israeli NGO that helps people navigate the country's byzantine religious bureaucracy, in a freedom of information request and released to media outlets.

Following a rapid increase in the number of people added to the lists, the total number of those banned from a Jewish wedding is 6,787, the Jerusalem Post reported, adding that the bulk of those were likely immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

ITIM's director, Rabbi Seth Farber, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that not only are the Rabbinate launching investigations into the "Jewishness" of those who request permission to marry, but then also probing their family members.

“They have now made everybody fair game to have their Jewishness challenged,” said Rabbi Farber told the outlet. “Once you open that door, you’re exponentially expanding your pool and your numbers are going to go up.”

ITIM has also submitted a petition to Israel's High Court asking they prohibit rabbinical courts from launching enquiries about someone's Jewish status without their consent.

Israel's government does recognize marriages performed overseas, an increasingly popular option Jews who are spurned by the Rabbinate and rabbinical courts. Some also partake in unsanctioned ceremonies inside Israel.

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