DNA testing for Judaism backed by State Attorney

The practice has caused public outrage, with some calling it institutional discrimination.

By LEON SVERDLOV
September 22, 2019 06:04
2 minute read.
DNA testing for Judaism backed by State Attorney

An illustrative image of a mouth swab for DNA testing. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

The office of the State Attorney informed the High Court of Justice that it supports the stance of the Chief Rabbinate regarding DNA tests for Jewish heritage, Ynet reported on Tuesday.


Religious service aid organizations reported an increase in cases where the Rabbinate had toughened the requirements for one's recognition as a Jew.

The Rabbinate's requirements that, according to Ynet, mostly target immigrants from the former Soviet Union include DNA testing to prove one's relation to a Jewish mother in the family and have previously caused public outrage.

According to the State Attorney, DNA testing is a rare practice used as a "last resort," and "it is only done consensually."

"[The state's] position is that there is nothing wrong with [the practice]," the State Attorney said in response to a petition.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman – a Moldovan immigrant himself – who based the party's 2019 election campaign on issues of religion and state, denounced the practice back in May, calling it institutional discrimination. Liberman also said that those who are recommended to pass the test have little choice but to consent in order to be considered Jewish, as Israel does not offer a civil marriage option.

Following the election, Liberman wrote on his Facebook page that Yisrael Beytenu "will not concede" on those issues. "We will not concede on [demands for] civil marriage, and we will demand the inclusion of core curriculum studies in the ultra-Orthodox education system," he said on Wednesday.

According to Ynet, the state denied that the practice targets immigrants from the Soviet Union in particular, saying that those who claim to be Jewish are required to submit official documents as a proof, yet government-issued documents from the Soviet era lack the relevant information.

Yisrael Beytenu responded to the claim saying that "we are glad that due to this petition the state admitted that those humiliating DNA tests for Soviet immigrants exist." The party also said it would "demand to change the recognition process in a way that would protect the fundamental rights [of those who claim to be Jewish]."

Head of religious service aid organization ITIM, Rabbi Shaul Ferber, told Ynet that "using DNA tests to prove one's Judaism contradicts Jewish tradition and human morality." "It is time we end the everyday suffering of those who had passed the exhausting [recognition] process and now found themselves interrogated, to prove their identity over again."

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.
 


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