(Hat tip: Failed Messiah)
There is a story going around the blogosphere about a young Jewish American woman who recently moved to Israel, attempted to get married and was apparently told by the Rabbanut official assigned to her to either produce four generations worth of kesubos or forget about getting married in Israel. As the original story in Haaretz notes:
But after filing for a wedding license and being told she needed to prove the Jewishness of her maternal lineage for four generations, she is wondering whether she made the right decision in immigrating to a Jewish state that doubts her Jewishness.
"I'm furious with this country right now," the 29-year-old international relations student told Anglo File this week. "I'm the great-great-niece of a prominent Zionist and I am always a supporter of this country, but this really frustrated me and I can totally understand why a lot of my Anglo friends left this country."
Rubin, who was raised in a Conservative household, produced letters from four Conservative rabbis and one Chabad rabbi attesting to her Jewishness. But the Herzliya Rabbinate said the letters were not enough and asked her to bring ketubot, or religious wedding contracts, as well as birth or death certificates of her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother.
"It was made very clear that without ketubot and without birth certificates from four generations, I would need to go to the Beit Din [local rabbinical court]," Rubin told Anglo File this week. "I told him, time and time again, that my grandparents are Shoah survivors [and thus their ketubot no longer exist] and I was told that wasn't his problem."
Naturally there is outrage everywhere. The venerable Brooklyn Wolf has dedicated two posts filled with much bitterness towards this issue. And it's no wonder why. Hillary Rubin, the young lady in question, isn't just another unknown person showing up on Israel's shores and demanding to be recognized as a Jew. She has yichus. First, there's her great-grandfather, Nachum Sokolov, an important early Zionist who did much important work to help establish the State. But not only that, her grandparents are Holocaust survivors. Who could ask for more?
Now, I do not wish to give the impression that I am mocking Ms. Rubin. I am certainly not questioning her Jewishness, chas v'shalom.. If what she says is correct then she has been treated poorly and illegally according to halacha. More on that later. However, I have little patience for those who bandy about things like the Holocaust to confirm their Jewishness. How many Jews converted out after the war because of despair? How many intermarried in the hopes of disappearing from history? More than that, how many non-Jews suffered in Hitler's camps? How is surviving the Holocaust proof of one's Jewishness?
Furthermore, the descent from Nachum Sokolow, while impressive, is again no proof. Thoedore Herzl's son Hans also converted out. Even Gwyneth Paltrow can claim descent from great rabbonim. There's no exclusivity in this club.
There is, however, a greater issue at play here. None of us out here in the cyberether were in the room with Ms Rubin and the unnamed rabbi who questioned her Jewishness. We do not know what transpired, what words were exchanged or what led this official to make his outrageous-sounding demand. All we known is what Haaretz told us about it.
Why is that siginificant? Remember that Haaretz is, to put it mildly, not a paper that sees religious Jews in a positive light. It's also a paper whose editorial staff have made it clear that they put politics before truth in reporting. We don't trust the media where it comes to reporting on Israel in general but suddenly Haaretz is a beacon of truth regarding the religious community? Please.
There is too much about this story that does not make sense. Although I am not an expert on the laws of marriage (the only one I really know is that I must say "Yes dear, you're right" on a frequent basis) I am reasonably sure that there is no requirement to present multiple generations of kesubos to a rabbi before getting married. I can't even imagine what the kesubos have to do with anything. Regardless of whom she married, the person's mother's Jewishness is all that matters to determine whether or not the person is a member of the tribe. I can understand being asked to prove that one's mother is Jewish and not a Reformative convert but not more than that.
Clearly there are either details that are missing or that have been distorted. Until we know them all it behooves us not to fall into Haaretz's manipulations and jump to rash conclusions.