Sex & Love

Want to Get Married? First Prove You’re Jewish

Here at Jewcy, Izzy has been keeping us in tune with all the gruesome details of wedding planning, from how to not look like a total square in front of your Indie-rock loving hipster guests and how to pick up … Read More

By / February 29, 2008

Here at Jewcy, Izzy has been keeping us in tune with all the gruesome details of wedding planning, from how to not look like a total square in front of your Indie-rock loving hipster guests and how to pick up a dress that gives you a Jewish amount of cleavage.

However, it wasn’t until this article was released by the New York Times that we realized an additional check box must be added to every Israeli’s wedding to do list: prove that you and your spouse-to-be are both Jewish. Okay, so it’s a little unusual, but totally doable, right? As it turns out, not so much – especially if your mother is American.

In his essay “How to Prove You’re a Jew?” reporter Gershom Gorenberg documents one woman’s struggle to get married in Israel, her country of origin. Even though the woman, a thirty-something named Sharon, was raised on a kibbutz, has a Jewish mother, and has “Jewish” printed on her birth certificate, it was not enough to satisfy the demands of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. Before any wedding was to take place, the rabbinate wanted some proof that Sharon’s (Jewish) mother was actually Jewish.

The problem? The Israeli Chief Rabbinate expected Sharon to produce her mother’s birth and marriage certificates as evidence for her membership to the tribe. But since Sharon’s mom was born in America, where nationalities are not printed on birth certificates and people can be married by a court official rather than a rabbi, Sharon and her hubby were left royally screwed. They were told no ketubah, no dice.


Lucky for Sharon, a few phone calls led her to Seth Farber, the Veronica Mars of Israeli marriage. Seth, rabbi and founder of Itim, the Jewish Life Information Center, an organization dedicated to making Judaism as accessible to all Jews as possible, worked his magic on Sharon’s case and came through in the clutch, digging up (literally) an acceptable link to Orthodox Judaism for Sharon’s mother.

But the article definitely raises questions, and eyebrows. Between the old-world mentality of the Israeli rabbinate, growing rifts within the Orthodox movement, and increased skepticism as a cause of people falsely claiming to be Jewish, it seems that without a change in policy, it will be impossible for many Jewish couples to be married in the holy land. As Arnold M. Eisen, chancellor of Jewish Theological Seminary points out, this situation is especially discouraging for young American Jews, who will not be able to ever develop a passion for Israel when, if they ever decide to live there, will be treated with discriminatory and insulting policy.

So save your ketubahs and start lobbying. The future of your children may depend on it.