February 14, 2013

LAW FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE HEREDITARY HEALTH OF THE [JEWISH] PEOPLE:

Getting Married in Israel: Why It So Often Means Hiring a Detective (Daniel Estrin, 2 FEB 13 2013, The Atlantic)

One drizzly fall night two years ago, the Israeli detective Shimon Har-Shalom stepped off a plane in Moscow clutching a briefcase full of clues. After hurrying through a crowd of fur coats, he ducked into the last car of the downtown express train and removed his cap, revealing a black yarmulke and short, wispy silvery side locks of hair. He slid a file folder from his briefcase and shuffled its contents: a century-old marriage contract, certificates stamped with the hammer-and-sickle of the Soviet Union, and hazy family photographs.

The case Har-Shalom was working that night had bedeviled him for some time. Back in Jerusalem, he'd been hired by a Russian émigrée who was planning for her daughter's eventual wedding and needed Har-Shalom for a crucial ingredient -- proof that her child was Jewish.

Marriage in Israel is controlled by state religious authorities; there are virtually no civil weddings in the country. Jews who want a marriage license must first prove they are Jewish in accordance with Orthodox tradition, which means they need to have been born to an uninterrupted line of Jewish mothers. Such a pedigree can be difficult to prove, especially for the children of Israel's largest immigrant community, the former denizens of the Soviet Union, many of whom spent years obscuring their Jewish roots to avoid discrimination. Enticed by lax immigration policies, these émigrés flooded Israel two decades ago and gave birth to children who now are beginning to seek marriage.
Posted by at February 14, 2013 3:59 PM
  
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