July 25, 2019

A RACE, NOT A RELIGION:

Rabbis making it harder for immigrants to prove Jewishness, advocate says (MARCY OSTER, 7/25/19, JTA)

Mikhail's story is not unusual, and is becoming even more common, according to Itim's director, Rabbi Seth Farber. And in an increasing number of cases, the Chief Rabbinate has asked people, many of them immigrants or children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, to undergo DNA testing to prove their Jewish roots.

"A new culture has developed within the Rabbinate that suspects everyone and relies on documents and science and technology, and not on religious norms," Farber, whose organization helps Israelis navigate the nation's Orthodox-run religious monopoly, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

A study recently released by the Israel Democracy Institute and Itim warns that over the next two decades, hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens from the former Soviet Union or of Ethiopian descent may need to undergo a process to validate their Judaism.

The study showed an increase in the proportion of cases that ended with a ruling that the applicant was not Jewish, from 2.9 percent in 2011 to 6.1 percent in 2016 to 6.7 percent in 2017.

Although those numbers may appear small, Itim and other advocates say the process is humiliating, demoralizing, unnecessary and undertaken with no clear or uniform standard for validating a person's Jewishness.

In Israel, the Chief Rabbinate controls marriage and divorce. In order to marry through the Chief Rabbinate, would-be spouses must prove they are Jewish. It's not difficult for Israelis who have been in the country for generations: The marriage certificates of their parents and grandparents issued by the Chief Rabbinate are on file.


Israeli World War II veterans of the Allied armies of Russian origins take part in a parade marking the 71st anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany, in Jerusalem, on May 8, 2016.  / AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON
Immigrants to the country must prove to a rabbinical court that they are Jewish.



Posted by at July 25, 2019 7:28 AM

  

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