Sunday, April 5, 2009

Conversion limbo - Rabbinate vs. Interior Ministry


Fifteen years ago in Turin, Italy, Rachel - aka Emanuela - began the spiritual odyssey that eventually led to her passionate embrace of Orthodox Judaism.

Today, at 35, Rachel is two months pregnant, married to a kashrut supervisor and living in the Jerusalem area.

But her personal journey, which has taken a somewhat unpleasant turn, is still not over.

Although Rome's Orthodox Rabbinical Court declared Rachel Jewish on July 11, 2006; although the Chief Rabbinate of Israel recognized Rachel's conversion; and although Rachel was joined in wedlock to her devout husband by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel six months ago, the Interior Ministry refuses to recognize Rachel as a Jew.

Thanks to a High Court injunction, she is allowed to remain in Israel with her husband until the court rules on her case. Until that happens, however, her citizenship status is in limbo.

She has no rights to any state services such as national insurance or health care, and if she leaves the country - to visit her family in Italy, for instance - she will not be allowed to return.

"My situation is worse than non-Jews who marry an Israeli," Rachel said on Thursday in a telephone interview. "At least they have rights."

Rachel is being helped by ITIM, a nonprofit organization that helps the perplexed navigate Israel's religion-related bureaucracies. [...]


  1. This is why I think religion and State in Israel ought to be separate. I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, but as soon as you take an official role you make halacha subject to officialdom.

  2. Recipients and PublicityApril 6, 2009 at 8:45 AM

    To joe in Australia, this is not a uniquely Israeli issue but one that inevitable every Jewish community has to confront at one time or another.

    Here's a report from Vos Iz

    "Hamburg, Germany -

    Jewish Community Expels Chairman after Questions Raised about his Jewish Identity

    Published on: April 5th, 2009 at 09:13

    AMNews Source: Monsters and Critics

    Hamburg, Germany - After an internal feud, Hamburg's Jewish community has expelled its former chairman, telling him that he is not really Jewish, the official, Andreas C. Wankum, said Sunday.

    Wankum, 53, told the German Press Agency dpa he had received a letter from the new leadership telling him his membership was terminated with immediate effect because he had 'misrepresented' himself.

    Confirming a report to appear tomorrow in the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, Wankum said, 'Religious questions are being improperly mixed up with political issues within the community here so as to get rid of someone with critical opinions.'

    Businessman Wankum, was Jewish chairman 2003-2007 and was also a member of Germany's Central Council of Jews.

    Spiegel said his opponents had found documentation about the Wankum family in the city's public archives which indicated that under Jewish law, Wankum was not Jewish by birth.

    The report said the community further contended that a confirmation of Wankum's Jewish identity by a rabbi in 2000 had been based on unreliable documents and testimonials."


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