Sunday, January 10, 2010

aml's story

Reposted with permission from the comments section of Emes Ve-Emunah

I too fell in love with Judaism over a decade ago now. I spent three years learning and growing before I was finally converted. About six months after my conversion I was introduced to my husband, who is Israeli. We got married in the States and moved back to Israel together. We were married by a diyan from the RCA, who also provided me with extra paperwork for the rabbinical authorities in Israel. After we arrived in Israel, we went to have my conversion and our marriage “recognized” in the eyes of the Rabbanute. This was the single most humiliating experience of my life.

I was standing there, long skirt, long sleeves, hair wrapped up in a scarf, with my new, kippa sruga- wearing husband, in front of three heredi rabbis. We also had two of my husband’s kippa sruga- wearing friends who were there to “testify” that we are married and that they were aware of my conversion.
The rabbiam didn’t make eye contact with me. They spoke to my husband as if I wasn’t even in the room and basically compared me to a whore (and for the record, I was a virgin when I got married) and asked him why he’d bother marrying a convert. I looked at my husband, his mouth open, not sure how to answer them. Were these even serious questions?

I broke down into tears. The rabbiam were shocked. Maybe they didn’t think I understood, I don’t know. Maybe they thought I wouldn’t question them. I looked all three of them in the eyes and asked them, “Do you really think you represent anything having to do with God?” And I walked out.

A few weeks later we received two letters in the mail. My conversion and our marriage were officially recognized on their “holy” eyes. To this day we both regret going to them for their recognition. To ask for their recognition was to give them authority.


  1. No words could excuse this, and no words should. I am deeply sorry for aml and every person who has been treated in such a manner. Thank God there are many places where this is not the manner of doing things.

  2. The Curmudgeonly Israeli Giyoret says:

    This was worse than, but not unlike, my experiences with the Jerusalem rabbinate when I registered to get married in 1985. There were a few decent individuals, but ultimately it was a frustrating, alienating, humiliating runaround. 11 trips to the office to present and re-present documentation that had been presented at the first meeting. They never really seemed to try to ascertain who I was or what my lifestyle was, it was just go in, wait,come back, bring this paper, that paper, get this stamp and that one.

    No, it isn't everybody and it doesn't happen everywhere, but it should be run like this at all, ever.

    My daughter was recently married under the auspices of our local Israeli rabbanut, and it was handled by our community rabbi, who has known her all of her life. She got kinder, warmer treatent than most of her Israeli friends from established dati leumi families got at the Jerusalem rabbanut. The rav even said that she did not have to bring in her parents' ketuba, as he knew us well for a long time. Her Yerushalmi fiance, the son of well-established, long time Israeli haredi ba'alei teshuva, had to bring HIS parents ketuba, but she didn't. The rav pointed out that they were entitled to a discount because her chatan was learning in yeshiva.

    Mordechai Scher, you don't have to apologize for incidents with which you had no connection, but neither does your well-meaning apology have anything to do with righting the offence that was done to aml.

    But don't tell us it doesn't happen.

  3. Curmudgeonly, I didn't say it doesn't happen. You yourself supported my contention that it isn't the manner everywhere by pointing out that your local rav did things differently. A lot depends even on simple good manners on the part of the rabbanim and clerks. Your rav's better manner is an indictment of those who are rude and inconsiderate and disrespectful. He proves it can and should be decently done.

    Granted my apology doesn't change things, but I AM sorry. We all 'own' Am Yisrael. Apologies are in order. As for improving things, I hope that in my own limited ability I am contributing to the discussion that will change minds and then change realities.

  4. I think the big difference, at least in Ma'aleh Adumim, where I live, is that things can be dealt with as a kehilla. We also have a congregation oF Russian olim, the core group of whom became religious in Russia. They have an outreach organization in J-lem, Machanayim, that deals with a lot of conversions among their community, and the local rabbis know them and are used to dealing with them.

    The rabbis in question, Rav Yehoshua Katz and Rav Mordechai Nagari are both zionists (in spite of their black hats) and quite accustommed to dealing with the general population. Rav Katz got an award from an organization that tries to help immigrants who had always assumed they were Jewish but it turns out their status is in doubt.

    The moral of the story is, "it takes a village" or maybe a yishuv, and if you have any choice at all about matters of personal status, never, never deal with the Jerusalem rabbinate.

  5. The Curmudgeonly Israeli Giyoret says:

    The above was me.