Israelis to protest Rabbinate's usage of DNA to determine Jewish status

"We refuse to be discriminated against," event organizers wrote on Facebook.

March 12, 2019 03:40
2 minute read.
The secret to healing what ails you lies within your own DNA

The secret to healing what ails you lies within your own DNA. (photo credit: DREAMSTIME)


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Israelis upset with the Rabbinate, who admitted that they use DNA testing to determine whether a person is Jewish, are scheduled to protest on Saturday night in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square.

"We refuse to be second-class citizens in our homeland," an Israeli Russian group page wrote on their protest event page on Facebook. "Today, after 30 years we also have a voice, we too have power and we refuse to continue to sit aside and do nothing."

"We refuse to be discriminated against."

Chief Rabbi David Lau admitted on Wednesday that the Rabbinate occasionally used DNA testing to determine if someone is Jewish. Many Russian immigrants feel they are disproportionately targeted by these DNA tests, having their Judaism questioned when coming to Israel. 

As of Tuesday, 147 plan on attending the rally. According to colloquial Facebook rule of attendance, there could be an estimated 300 people at the event (('Going' x .8) plus ('Interested' x .5)). The event is hosted by "Signs that you're Russian," a Facebook group dedicated to memes and videos about Russian Israeli culture. The Facebook group has a reach of over 130,000 people.

Yisrael Beytenu Party leader Avigdor Liberman denounced Lau’s statement, saying the chief rabbi was admitting to institutional discrimination, and pointed out that those who are recommended to do a DNA test have little choice but to consent, if they want to be considered Jewish by the rabbinate to marry in the Jewish state.

"We decided it was time to put an end to the growing discrimination against immigrants from the former Soviet Union, a discrimination that has been going on for 30 years," the event organizers wrote.

There have been approximately 20 cases in recent months where the rabbinical courts have requested DNA testing for individuals seeking to prove they are Jewish, mostly for the purposes of registering for marriage, in the past year, ITIM, a religious services NGO, said.

There are more than 400,000 Israeli citizens from the former Soviet Union who are not Jewish according to Jewish law. Additionally, the more than 700,000 Jewish citizens from the former Soviet Union routinely have their Jewish status challenged when seeking religious services through the Chief Rabbinate and the Rabbinical Courts.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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