Rabbinical court rejects man’s Jewishness, 23 years after approving his sister’s

ITIM organization protests decision in letter to chief rabbi, says judge rejected Beit Din of America letter attesting to man’s religion

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

View of the rabbinical court in Tel Aviv on August 3, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
View of the rabbinical court in Tel Aviv on August 3, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

A rabbinical court has refused to recognize the Jewishness of an American Israeli man, despite approving the conversion to Judaism of his sister over two decades ago, according to the advocacy organization representing him.

The man, whose family moved to Israel from California, also received an affirmation of his Jewishness from the Beit Din of America, which was rejected by the rabbinical judge against Chief Rabbinate directives, ITIM charged in a letter to Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau on Tuesday.

The man’s mother and sister converted to Judaism in California in January 1980 — before he was born — and he was raised in an Orthodox home, ITIM said. The Tel Aviv rabbinical court recognized his sister’s Judaism in 1996, allowing her to get married in the country where personal status issues are handled by the Chief Rabbinate.

But despite documentation submitted to the court showing its previous decision, a rabbinical judge did not authorize his Jewishness for the purposes of marriage, the organization said.

A request submitted by ITIM for an extension to file an appeal to the decision was also rejected without explanation, it said, accusing the judges of placing minute procedural concerns over the pursuit of justice.

ITIM director Rabbi Seth Farber slammed the decision and the court’s refusal to recognize the Beit Din of America’s approval. The rabbinical court is one of several dozen recognized by the Chief Rabbinate for the purposes of conversion to Judaism and divorce.

“This is an intolerable situation in which the State Rabbinate is discriminating against converts, disregarding its own standards, violating Halacha, and defying normative Orthodoxy,” Farber said in a statement.

In November, the Chief Rabbinate for the first time named the Orthodox rabbinical courts in the Diaspora recognized by the state-run religious authorities, after a lengthy legal battle.

The list of the non-Israeli bodies approved for conversion includes some 70 Orthodox rabbinical courts around the world, half of them in the United States. It also signed off on 80 rabbinical judges, whose activities are overseen by the US Rabbinical Council of America and the Beit Din of America .

Rabbi Shlomo Weissmann of the Beit Din of America was signed on to the authorization of the man’s Jewishness and is featured on the rabbinate’s list of approved rabbis.

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