Israeli rabbinate under fire for pushing for DNA tests

Religion News Service | 3/14/2019 | Staff
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JERUSALEM (RNS) — When Oleg Sidorov and his fiancee applied for a marriage license at their local rabbinate office, he assumed the process would run smoothly.

After all, Sidorov, who emigrated from Ukraine to Israel with his family when he was 5, attended Jewish schools in Israel and served in the Israeli military for a decade.

Documents - Circumcision - Certificates - Marriage - Contracts

But he lacked the typical Judaism-related documents, such as circumcision certificates and ketubah marriage contracts from parents or grandparents, that Jewish couples are expected to present to the marriage registrar.

In the former Soviet Union, religious practices and institutions were outlawed for decades, so Sidorov’s parents and grandparents never received a ketubah, a Jewish marriage certificate.

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A skeptical licensing clerk sent him to a rabbinical court to prove his Jewishness, and the rabbinical court sent him to an organization that investigates Jewish status. The organization located solid documentation that his great-grandmother was Jewish – Judaism goes by matrilineal descent – and sent it to the court, but the court rejected it.

Instead, the judges told Sidorov that the only way to prove his Jewishness was to ask his grandmother, who has dementia, to undergo a DNA test and compare the results with her siblings or cousins.

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“The rabbis suspected that my grandmother had been adopted because she was born more than five years after my great-grandparents got married,” Sidorov said. “They strongly suggested that my grandmother undergo a DNA test to prove her connection to my great-grandmother’s blood relatives.”

Following the rabbi’s suggestion wasn’t an option. Sidorov’s great-grandmother, who died 16 years ago, was the only one of her siblings to survive the Holocaust. His grandmother was an only child. So there was no one to compare the results to even if she took the test.

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“W­­­­hat blood relatives are we supposed to approach for DNA testing?” Sidorov asked, frustration in his...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Religion News Service
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