Wednesday, March 05, 2008

649. Jewish enough?

Very interesting article in this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine:

How Do You Prove You’re a Jew?

If you want to get married in Israel, you'd better be able to present hard proof that you're Jewish. But there's that pesky problem of generations of Americans raised in the Reform or Conservative traditions--who, even after they make aliyah, are still not sufficiently kosher for Israeli Orthodox rabbis, the civil as well as religious arbiters of this sort of thing. One slightly radical Orthodox rabbi has taken on the task of sleuth, digging up photos of crumbling headstones and affidavits from far-flung shuls to attest that a marrying couple's grandparents did, in fact, attend. In theory, I appreciate Israel's exacting standards. In practice, it is achieving the exact opposite of what we all want and need, a Jewish people who are one and can live with each other in peace.

(Could I prove I was Jewish? Well, I have my parents' ketubah, marriage contract, and get, certificate of religious divorce, but the rabbis who signed them are long gone from this world, and I'd have to attest to their Jewishness. I could probably track down someone from my father's old synagogue, but what if he wasn't on the Israeli list of "approved" rabbis? And Judaism is matrilinear, in any case, so I'd need to present my mother's background. A photo of her headstone would show her father's Yiddish name, useless... and the town where they grew up is now under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, so no synagogue records remain. So maybe I'm not Jewish enough, either.)

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