Jewish enough to fight, but not to marry
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Rita Margolis is a 27-year-old Israeli citizen, a granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor and a reservist in the Israel Defense Forces.
As a toddler, Margolis immigrated to Israel from Ukraine with her family. She fought for her country and has lived a full Jewish Israeli life. Yet because of her mother’s non-Jewish DNA, the state will not recognize her impending marriage to a fellow IDF soldier. Although the couple plans a Reform ceremony in Israel, they must leave the country for a secular wedding that the Jewish state will recognize.
This is wrong — very wrong — and serves as a reminder that Israel must seek a course correction.
Anyone familiar with Israeli history knows that the country’s founding fathers made concessions to Orthodox Jewry, ceding to it authority over questions of personal status such as marriage, burial and conversion.
It was a shaky deal from the start, made more complicated once more than a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union started pouring into Israel in the late 1980s. They were permitted citizenship per the Law of Return, but not all were accorded full “Jewish” citizenship, per decree of the Orthodox establishment.
When a society demands patriotism and loyalty — but withholds all the social benefits that should accrue — problems arise. And now the next generation is dealing with the consequences of that disconnect.
As our story on page 16a details, Margolis posted on Facebook an eloquent cri de couer about her circumstances, recounting her family history as well as affirming her dedication to Zionism. “The country is turning its back on me,” she wrote.
Margolis’ story, sadly, is not unique. It has been repeated, in one variation or another, many times over the past two decades, as those who are “Jewish enough” to immigrate to Israel are slapped in the face — in the synagogue, under the chuppah and, horribly, in the cemetery.
Granted, the who-is-a-Jew conversation is delicate and contentious, with no easy answers. It makes sense that some sort of borderlines for the Jewish people should be in place. The trick is to find borderlines that all parties — Orthodox, non-Orthodox and secular Jews alike — can agree on.
And there has never been a more auspicious time than now, as a new government is about to form. Pundits are predicting a centrist coalition that would exclude the haredi parties, who have placed continuing stumbling blocks in the path toward a solution to this tragic problem.
It must be solved, and quickly. The future of the Jewish state depends on it.
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