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74% of Israeli Jews would prefer egalitarian Jewish wedding ceremonies

Aug 18th, 2016

Israeli Jews are tired of having this anti-egalitarian, irrelevant ritual forced upon them. The public wants a modernized Jewish ceremony.  

Photo: A bride putting a wedding ring on her groom's finger

74% of Israeli Jews would prefer to have egalitarian wedding ceremonies for themselves or their children, including an egalitarian exchange of wedding rings and an egalitarian Jewish marriage contract, which would include equal obligations for both spouses. 92% of secular Jews and 81% of traditional Jews would be interested in having egalitarian wedding ceremonies. Among Zionist Orthodox Jews, 69% are opposed, but 31% support the idea. The relatively high level of support for egalitarianism among Orthodox respondents once again indicates that the battle for religious freedom and diversity is not between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews, but rather between those who embrace democracy and progress, and those who would see Israel become a theocratic, pre-modern state.

Of note: Among voters for the Zionist Orthodox Jewish Home party, 51% would be interested in having egalitarian wedding ceremonies. This is likely due to the high percentage of non-Orthodox Jewish Home party voters.

The survey underscores the degree to which the Jewish community, including a growing percentage of the religious community, is growing away from the archaic institution of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. The public has clearly expressed that it does not prefer the antiquated and anti-egalitarian wedding ceremony imposed upon it by the intransigent Rabbinate. Many want a Jewish ceremony, but one that matches their values and ways of life, namely a modern, egalitarian ceremony. Nevertheless, the Chief Rabbinate and the Orthodox political parties insist upon non-egalitarian Jewish wedding ceremonies; they are Judaism's number one enemies and breed hatred in the hearts of the public toward Judaism.

designates women a very passive role - one of consent and silence. The man places the ring on the woman's finger, he "sanctifies" her as his own, and only his obligations are outlined in the Jewish marriage contract. In recent years, opportunities for egalitarian weddings have increased in Israel; and in honor of the Jewish holiday of love (Tu b'Av), Hiddush explored the level of public demand for them.

Unfortunately, due to the intransigent ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate's monopoly over Jewish marriage and divorce, egalitarian Jewish weddings are not recognized by the State of Israel, unless citizens get married outside of Israel. Even then, married couples who wish to divorce may only do so via the official Israeli Rabbinate in non-egalitarian, Orthodox ceremonies. Israel is the only Western democracy that denies its citizens the right to marry as best befits their beliefs, values and lifestyles, as evidenced by Hiddush's international marriage map, which provides a comparative analysis of marriage restrictions in some 200 countries around the world. [see:]

The obvious solution is to demand that the civil political parties pass a law, legalizing civil marriage and divorce. Unfortunately, the current Government has set new records for submissiveness to the ultra-Orthodox parties' political blackmail and coercion; and the opposition parties have been making great efforts to remain in the ultra-Orthodox parties' good graces. Until the Rabbinate's monopoly is finally done away with, citizens must vote, and continue to get married in independent, egalitarian Jewish ceremonies, which aren't yet recognized by the State.

The question was worded as follows: "If you or one of your children wanted to get married - to what degree would you be in support of or opposed to a wedding ceremony that is gender egalitarian, for example: a mutual exchanging of rings and a Jewish wedding contract, which includes equal obligations for both spouses?" It is important to note that the survey did not examine theoretical support, but rather personal preferences, related to the respondents and their families. Further, the survey did not mention the legal question of doing away with religious ceremonies or instituting civil marriage, but rather whether the respondents would or would not prefer egalitarian versions of commonly accepted Jewish wedding customs.

As noted, 74% of Israeli Jews, three out of four, would be interested in having egalitarian wedding ceremonies for themselves or their children. As expected, there was a difference in responses between men and women. 78% of women and 70% of men favored egalitarian wedding ceremonies. Among left leaning voters, 100% preferred egalitarian ceremonies, as did 94% of centrist voters. Only 58% of right leaning voters favored having egalitarian wedding ceremonies, for most Zionist Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox voters are right leaning. Among immigrants from the former Soviet Union 83% favored the idea, compared with 73% of native Israelis. This is likely due to the relatively low number of Orthodox Jews among the immigrant population. 87% of voters for the opposition parties preferred egalitarian wedding ceremonies, as did 77% of voters for the non-religious Coalition parties. However, 61% of voters for the ultra-Orthodox and Zionist Orthodox political parties were opposed.

This survey was conducted by the Smith Polling Institute for Hiddush – Freedom of Religion for Israel ahead of Tu b'Av, the Jewish holiday of love. The survey was conducted by telephone on July 25-27 among a representative sample of 700 people from the adult Jewish Israeli population. It was conducted with generous support from IREP - the Israel Religious Expression Platform. A recent Hiddush survey, also sponsored by IREP, found that 71% of Israeli Jews attach great importance to the issue of marriage freedom, and 60% of the Jewish Israeli public supports the involvement of American Jewish organizations in advancing marriage freedom in Israel. [Click HERE for more]

The current Government has set new records for submissiveness to the ultra-Orthodox parties' political blackmail and coercion; and the opposition parties have been making great efforts to remain in the ultra-Orthodox parties' good graces.

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