Proving You're Jewish
Looks like there was a really great article in the New York Times Magazine over the weekend about the frequent need in Israel to prove you're a Jew.
The whole concept sounds pretty bizarre to American ears.
Setting aside for a moment The Dean's recent tizzy about trying to figure out whether or not his own son was Black, generally ethnic identities in the United States are just kind of "generally understood" but usually not defined in the way that one might define, say, the atomic weight of hydrogen.
And it's a foregone conclusion that you can change your religion twice daily without anyone paying much attention - well, except for Anonymous.
The rest of the world is quite different.
Recently even the Archbiship of Canterbury got educated that in most of the world matters of particularly marriage and divorce are handled by religious instead of government authorities. Of course because he specifically mentioned the notion that sharia law may one day share jurisdiction with British law, people lost they minds.
One in fact need look no further than Israel to discover a society where the religious authorities are in charge of who can get married and who can't.
There is no civil marriage in Israel. Yes, that strikes American ears as BIZARRE. It's as American as baseball and apple pie to tell your folks to go perform an anatomical impossibility on themselves and run off to marry someone who's religion has as much in common with your own as, say, Renegade Evolution has in common with President Bush, and find some poor unsuspecting Justice of the Peace or small-town mayor to perform the ceremony.
Not so in Israel.
Only Orthodox rabbis can perform marriage ceremonies.
And they will not perform the ceremony on anyone unless they are PROVEN Jewish.
Generally that means the ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) of your parents.
Heaven help you if, like the young lady mentioned in the Times article, your parents had a civil ceremony in the United States.
Yes, my friends, as my "Judaism 101" instructor, Rabbi Gary Zola of Hebrew Union College, once explained to me, you can, say, be adopted by Orthodox Jewish parents, go to Golf Manor each and every Friday night and Saturday morning, attend Brandeis university, make 650 trips to Israel every year, and still not be halachically (according to Orthodox Jewish law) Jewish.
On the other hand, you can be born of a Jewish mother and wind up getting raised by neo-Nazi's, regularly paint swastikas on people's homes and businesses, and still be absolutely, 100%, T-totally Jewish to the core of your being.
I know - it didn't make sense to me either when Zola first told me.
But, yes - this is the kind of foolishness we have to look forward to if ANY sort of sharia / halakha / religious law starts intermingling with civil law.
The First Amendment is there for a REASON, people ...