The good times have come. You thought that pursuing converts in order to determine whether or not they were really Jewish, and engaging in the question of what exactly was going on in her mind when she immersed in the mikveh, or what religious observances he kept, or did not keep, after the conversion would stop there – with the converts? Wrong.
It’s here. The new directives published by the Office of the Chief Rabbi of Israel, and approved by the Council of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, provide a very grim picture. Not just for Alexander, Svetlana and Irus, but for you – Nitzan, Inbal, and Shai. Even for you – Yitzchak, Avrumi and Reizel. For all of us.
According to the new directives, not only is the Marriage Registrar required to send every convert, or every person whose parents were married abroad, to the court for a determination of whether or not s/he’s is a Jew– he can, if he wants, send a person for an official inquiry into one's Jewishness even if his parents were married by a rabbi who is licensed Israeli Marriage Registrar.
In the same way, from now on, Marriage Registrars can send a person for a determination of whether or not he is really Jewish if his parents were married abroad, even if they were married by a community rabbi whose name is on the official list of Diaspora rabbis recognized by the Chief Rabbinate. You’ll be even more surprised to hear that a Marriage Registrar can even send people who present a marriage certificate of a “first degree relative on their mother’s side” who had in the past received a judgment of the rabbinic court that he is a Jew.
In other words, if, for example, your sister, who is your mother’s daughter, proved in the past to the rabbinic court that she’s Jewish, that’s not sufficient proof that you too are a Jew! The Marriage Registrar can send you back to court– and if the rabbinic court decides that you’re not a Jew, then even your sister’s Jewishness may be retroactively revoked.
So, maybe you’re under the impression that a person who has a judgment from the rabbinic court that he’s Jewish might be exempt from further inquiry? You’re wrong. In effect, there is nothing that can you can provide that will prove - beyond a reasonable doubt - that you are Jewish. The Marriage Registrar can always send you back to the rabbinic court for an additional hearing even if the matter was already examined in the past and there is a relevant court decision.
Moreover, according to the new directives (and also according to what I know from my experience on the ground) even if you didn’t go to register for marriage, and even if you didn’t go to a rabbinic court for any reason, and even if you didn’t pass by a rabbinic court when you walked down the street – the rabbinic court can summon you, conduct a hearing about your Jewishness, and revoke it, if they so will.
Let your imagination run wild: bureaucrats, attorneys, Internal Inquisitors of Jewishness, External Inquisitor of Jewishness, Heads of Departments and many more such will be funded by rabbinic courts in order to oversee these complex tasks. The State of Israel and the people who live in Zion will fund this party from their pockets. From our pockets.
In effect, the entire nation of Israel is presumed to be Not-Jewish – until proven otherwise. There has never been a situation like this in Jewish history. If this isn’t the time to establish alternative rabbinic courts – when will the time come?
Rivkah Lubitch is a rabbinic pleader who works at the Center for Women’s Justice , tel. 02-5664390