Sarit entered the rabbinic court as a Gentile and left as a Jew! CWJ reversed a revoked conversion, fighting the arbitrary nullification of women's conversions by the rabbinate. In this instance, broad media coverage brought these women's stories into the limelight, exposing the dangerous ramifications of unchecked rabbinic power. See this Jeusalem Post recap.
Reminder: Sarit's mother converted to Judaism 30 years ago under the auspices of Chief Rabbi Goren zt'l. Two years ago, when Sarit went to register for a license to marry, the registrar referred her to a rabbinic court in order undergo a procedure to "clarify her Jewishness" (בירור יהדות) in accordance with new regulations issued by the Rabbinate. The rabbinic court summoned Sarit's mother to appear before them--because the “regulations” say that they can do this-- and she was questioned about her lifestyle: Did she obey the laws of family purity? What was the Torah Portion of the week? Two weeks before the planned wedding, the court sent Sarit a notice that she could not marry because that conversion of her mother was (in effect) cancelled! At the last minute, Sarit approached Rabbi David Stav who graciously agreed to officiate at the wedding.
A year ago, the Center for Women's Justice (CWJ) appealed the decision not to recognize Sarit as Jewish. We waited a year for the hearing. It was held yesterday. CWJ attorney Nitzan Caspi Shiloni represented Sarit before the High Rabbinic Court. The tribunal of judges, headed by Rabbi David Lau, decided to accept the appeal and declared that Sarit was a Jew!
Despite our joy at the decision, we were left angry and worried.
We are worried that without media pressure we are not at all sure that we would be celebrating today the success of Sarit's judgment .
We are angry that Sarit and her mother had to go through a tortuous route to reach a just decision. Sarit's mother was humiliated in the regional rabbinic court and felt that the representatives of the Jewish people, the rabbinical court, wanted to oust her from their midst. This practice is tantamount to a violation of the biblical injunction that rails against the "torture of converts."
We are angry because, although the individual case of Sarit has been resolved, the rabbinic court has not discontinued its policy of interrogating converts about the most intimate and private details of their lives. The rabbinic court noted during the hearing that it will continue to summon converts for "clarification of their Jewishness," and they wondered why Sarit's husband--whose mother is also a convert-- was not summoned to undergo a similar procedure.
Dr. Susan Weiss, CWJ director: "The most important bottom line is that Sarit can finally smile, but other converts cannot sleep at night. The religious establishment is looking for them and could deny their Jewishness at any moment."
And here's a tip: if this happens to you, - contact the Center for Women's Justice!
The generosity of the David Berg Foundation, JWF of Metropolitan Chicago, and JWF of the Greater Palm Beaches and others whose critical general support is making this litigation possible, is helping CWJ chip away at the Supreme Court’s reluctance to challenge the rabbinic courts on agunah rights and all other issues relating to policies that are prejudicial towards women.