In an unusual move, the Haifa Rabbinical Court revoked an earlier rabbinic determination that a woman was Jewish after launching a new inquiry into her status because she had admitted in a media interview that she was a sex worker.
Rabbinical court judges (dayanim) Daniel Edri, Ben-Zion Hacohen Rabin and Elad Eli said the woman and her relatives would be unable to marry in a Jewish ceremony. They also fined her 25,000 shekels ($6,900).
Generally, rabbinical courts open inquiries into a person’s Jewishness only if they suspect that one member of a couple registering to marry isn’t Jewish. But this time, the inquiry was launched while the court was adjudicating the woman’s divorce from her husband.
In their ruling, the dayanim acknowledged that this is unusual.
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“During the hearing, the husband made a serious accusation against his wife – that she is a prostitute,” the ruling said. “The husband submitted a video clip in which the woman admits that she’s a prostitute and that she’s married to a slave. The court was surprised and horrified by the shocking things the woman said in the video clip.”
The dayanim said they decided to open the inquiry in light of the rabbinic saying that Jews are “merciful, bashful and kind.” They also quoted other sources in the Talmud that discussed the Jewish trait of bashfulness.
“When the woman removed the mask of the natural bashfulness that every child of Israel has, the court developed a serious suspicion that she indeed was not a daughter of Israel,” the ruling said.
Although the woman and her mother had their Judaism certified many years ago, the dayanim decided to launch the inquiry “in light of the woman’s behavior in public and her publicizing her actions and her work before millions of viewers, and above all in light of the sages’ statement above.”
On the order of the rabbinical court, the documents that the woman and her mother presented attesting to their Jewishness were sent to the police forensic sciences lab, which determined that they were forged.
An opinion written by the official seeking to clarify their Jewishness said: “It seems that the applicant and her mother, in their effort to mislead the court, did more than any other forger exposed during my years of working as a Judaism clarifier. Aside from the false declarations and the forging of certificates, the applicant’s lies included fabricating data in the Ukraine Population Registry’s computer system during the court’s investigation.”
At the end of their ruling, the dayanim said: “The court finds it proper to publish the ruling to deter those who want to deceive the court and receive a false confirmation of Judaism by presenting forged documents or other means.”
Asked whether the court has the authority to order the clarification procedure outside the context of a marriage registration request, the Rabbinical Courts Administration told Haaretz that “an applicant’s personal status has a direct bearing on the divorce process; thus the Judaism clarification regulations of 2010 require a clarification of Judaism in cases when required as part of a divorce procedure.”
It added: “In the event that the court determines that the woman isn’t Jewish, the marriage is in any case voided and the woman’s personal status is registered as single.”