My first wife converted to Judaism under the guidance of a Modern Orthodox Rabbi in St. Louis. After her conversion, we were married in an Orthodox ceremony. We practiced the laws of family purity, observed Shabbat, and kept Kosher.
We have three children, two girls and a boy. When we moved to Orlando, Florida, we joined a Conservative synagogue. In Orlando, Florida, there are no Modern Orthodox synagogues. My first wife served on the executive board of the synagogue and still serves on the executive board of the Federation. My children grew up to be serious, committed Jews. My son and younger daughter plan on making Aliyah.
Israel will welcome my children as Jews. The Israeli Rabbinut, however, won’t let them get married in Israel.
It turns out, that the Orthodox Rabbi who led the conversion is not Orthodox enough for the Rabbinut. According to the Rabbinut, my children have some weird classification as gentiles who should be encouraged to convert.
The majority of religious Jews in Israel support the Rabbinut control over marriage. Secular Jews do not support it but suffer it in relative silence. It is not a problem for the majority of them. The majority of them have children who are recognized as Jews by the Rabbinut.
It is a problem for people like me; people who make Aliyah and then have to prove their Judaism to the Rabbinut. My first piece for the Times of Israel was about proving my Judaism to the Rabbinut and what a horrible experience it was. Lucky for me I was able to prove my Judaism to their satisfaction. Many people who have lived their whole lives considering themselves as part of the Jewish people do not have the same ability.
Yesh Atid is doing something about it. They have proposed a new civil union measure. This bill would allow my children to get married in Israel according to Jewish tradition. They could use a Conservative Rabbi to conduct the service. Israel would not call it a “marriage” but it would amount to the same thing legally. In my opinion, it would be a marriage in the eyes of God and a marriage in the eyes of the government. That is enough for me. I don’t care about the opinion of the Rabbinut.
If I had that option available to me last year when I got married in Israel, I would have taken it.
It is okay with me that Ultra Orthodox Jews do not want their sons to marry my daughter. I am pretty certain that I don’t want my daughter marrying an Ultra Orthodox Jew. It is not okay with me if the State of Israel says it doesn’t want my daughter marrying their sons.
People in Israel complain about the lack of support from Diaspora Jews in the USA for the State of Israel. Most of the Diaspora Jews in the USA have family members who the Rabbinut would not classify as Jewish. Do you think that the Rabbinut helps make Diaspora Jews feel an attachment to the State of Israel?
No it does not help.
I am grateful to Yesh Atid for working to do something about this situation. I believe that this law will do a lot more than simply solving a problem for my children. Diaspora Jews in the USA are paying attention. If Israel truly wants the support of Diaspora Jews, they have to decide whether or not they really would welcome these Jews into their families.
Yesh Atid is trying to give my children a future as Jews in the State of Israel. Please support this measure.