Israel’s “Jews-only” marriage laws are in focus once again with the news that the Jewish state has rejected the authority of the so-called “Trump rabbi”—Haskel Lookstein—to conduct conversions.
Although the ruling was made in a separate case, it means that Ivanka Trump’s 2009 conversion to Judaism has now been rejected by Judaism’s supreme religious authorities.
As reported in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, another of Rabbi Lookstein’s American converts—named only as Nicole—tried to get married in Israel to a Jew, but her application was rejected because it was ruled that she was not a Jew.
Israeli marriage law says that Jews can only marry other Jews, a measure put in place to preserve the purity of the Jewish race in that state.
For this purpose, the Chief Rabbinate decides who is a Jew and who is not, and that decision is taken on a case-by-case process which includes consulting with Jewish religious organizations all over the world.
In other words, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate sits at the top of a pyramid of worldwide Jewish organizations, and only takes its decisions on who is and who is not a Jew after consultations with representative Jewish organizations all over the globe.
In the Rabbi Lookstein case, it seems that the decision has been taken to disregard his “conversions” to Judaism because he appears to be too liberal in his interpretation of Talmudic law—and has allowed one too many non-Jews to “become” Jews.
For this reason, his authority to conduct conversions has now been formally rejected by the Chief Rabbinate, making anyone “converted” by him not recognized as a Jew in Israel—and therefore, not allowed to marry there, immigrate there, or become a citizen under the “right of return” law.
As the Telegraph pointed out, this ultra-orthodox interpretation of who is a Jew is not some splinter within Judaism, but rather its major component.
“The Chief Rabbinate is a deeply Orthodox institution that is an official part of the state, and the Ultra-Orthodox political parties which play a key role in Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government,” the Telegraph said.
A January 2014 article in the Times of Israel revealed the exact workings behind the Chief Rabbinate’s decision-making process.
According to that article, the task of assembling the “evidence” of who is a Jew and who is not falls to one single bureaucrat within the Chief Rabbinate, Rabbi Itamar Tubul.
Rabbi Tubul, the Times of Israel revealed, “must review every claim of Jewish ancestry” because “to be married in Israel, immigrants must prove their Jewish ancestry to the country’s Chief Rabbinate.”
The Israel-based newspaper explains it as follows:
Couples can solicit a letter from their hometown rabbis or present their parents’ Jewish marriage contracts. Sometimes they even bring a Yiddish-speaking grandmother before a rabbinical court.
In the end, every claim has to pass through one man: a midlevel bureaucrat named Itamar Tubul.
To make his recommendations, Tubul relies on a network of personal contacts. His first step is to confer with judges on nine US rabbinical courts approved by the Chief Rabbinate. If the judges don’t know the rabbi in question or doubt his credentials, they refer Tubul to local colleagues.
Rabbi Tubul has a history of rejecting the authority of those whose “commitment to Orthodox Jewish law” can be called into question.
At the same time, the worldwide organization of Jews—both secular and religious—are always among the first to attack any European ethnocentricism as “racist” or “Nazi”—whereas the Israeli citizenship laws are in fact based on the Nazi Nuremberg Laws.
It seems that the maxim of “one law for Jews, and another law for everyone else” is the dominating factor once again.