August 30, 2008


In Israel, A Clash Over Who Is a Jew: Ultra-Orthodox Contest Conversions (Griff Witte, 8/30/08, Washington Post)

Yael converted to Judaism in 1992, and for the next 15 years she lived in Israel, celebrating the major holidays and teaching her children about the Jewish faith.

But when she and her husband sought a divorce last year, she said, the ultra-Orthodox rabbis in charge of the process had some questions. Among them: Did Yael observe the Sabbath? Did she obey the prohibition on sex during and after menstruation?

Dissatisfied with the answers, the rabbis nullified her conversion. Yael did not need a divorce, they ruled, because she had never been married. She had never been married because she had never been Jewish. And because she had never been Jewish, her children were not, either.

"I was in shock. I couldn't believe it," said Yael, 43, who would allow only her Hebrew name to be published out of privacy concerns. Blond, blue-eyed and athletic-looking, Yael is baffled by the ordeal. "My kids grew up Jewish," she said. "They don't know anything else."

Yael's personal trauma has become a cause for Israeli soul-searching over what it means to be Jewish, a term that carries both religious and ethnic dimensions.

Which is why the Arabs can just wait and Palestine will fall into their laps--the secular don't have kids and the Orthodox insist only their own kids are Jews. There's a recipe for oblivion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 30, 2008 8:26 AM
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