Arrivals: Jewish (officially) at last!

Moving here was easy compared to the trouble Danielle Gossman-Vitory endured trying to prove to the rabbinate she is Jewish.

Danielle Grossman-Vitory 390 (photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
Danielle Grossman-Vitory 390
(photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
For Danielle Gossman-Vitory, the hardest part of aliya was proving she was Jewish enough to become an immigrant and, even more, Jewish enough to get married in Israel.
With a Jewish mother and a gentile father, none of it was smooth sailing, and toward the end, when she was waiting for permission to marry her husband, Rafi, in a religious Jewish ceremony, there were some cliff-hanging delays until the documentation she had to provide was finally accepted by the rabbinate. Today she’s a happily married woman living in Ra’anana, totally accepted into the bosom of her husband’s family who hail from Tripoli, and working in her profession as a mechanical engineer.
They met in San Diego, where she was born 26 years ago.
Rafi had gone to work in California for several months to gain experience in his field of electrical engineering.
Danielle had already been to Israel on a Taglit program while in her first year of studies, and on her second visit studied at an Orthodox seminary and began to be more observant.
Until then she had been brought up a Reform Jew. Back in San Diego she was invited to a Shabbat dinner by some friends and it was there that she met and fell in love with Rafi.
She returned to Israel after completing her degree, and Rafi came back and introduced her to his family.
“They are the best in-laws I could have asked for,” she says.
“They accepted me right away and although they didn’t speak English and I knew no Hebrew, I just felt so welcome there.”
Although she wanted to learn the language and spent some time in ulpan, finding a job was top priority for her.
While still in San Diego she had looked on the Internet for companies in Israel that might need her mechanical engineering skills, and once she got here she began making calls and networking.
“I became a little nudnikit,” she laughs now. After two frustrating months she landed a job.
It was at a waste-water-to-energy start-up in Caesarea and at first she liked it and found her fellow workers congenial and pleasant. But she felt the work was not enough of a challenge and her function within the company was not satisfactory.
MEANWHILE SHE decided after several months on a tourist visa that she would officially make aliya and found that a letter from a Chabad rabbi she had known in college was enough to convince the Jewish Agency that she was Jewish and entitled to become an immigrant.
Proving that she was Jewish so she could get married through the rabbinate proved much more difficult. Her parents had married in a Reform synagogue and had no valid ketuba (marriage certificate). She was asked to produce her grandparents’ marriage certificate instead but this had gone missing and no one knew where it was. Someone suggested a photo of her grandmother’s grave in a Jewish cemetery, but this proved to be not enough.
Then she had the inspiration of presenting her uncle’s ketuba as he had a valid one, having married in a Conservative synagogue. This was duly e-mailed, together with his birth certificate and her mother’s birth certificate to prove that they were brother and sister and both had the same (Jewish) mother. Finally Danielle had to send her own birth certificate. All these documents had to be translated from English to Hebrew as the rabbis said they didn’t know any English and it cost about NIS 200 a page to have them certified by a notary.
“I was going crazy,” says Danielle. “The wedding was arranged and getting closer and each time we went to the rabbinate they said not to worry, there was plenty of time.”
Finally, two weeks before the wedding date, the documents were all approved and the wedding was able to go ahead as planned.
“At the end they apologized to me for all the trouble and worry,” says Danielle. “They said, ‘we’re sorry, we thought you were Russian!’” It turns out that the rabbinate makes it even harder for Russians than it does for Americans.
Today she works at a public company in Rosh Ha’ayin, Environmental Energy Resources, a small start-up with an engineering department consisting of herself and two others.
She commutes every day from Ra’anana and finds the work much more satisfying than the first job.
She and Rafi live in a rented apartment and hope to buy one day. As his job is in Ra’anana, she drives the car to Rosh Ha’ayin. Once the working day is over she likes to swim in the municipal pool and manages to get there at least twice a week. She’s also a keen knitter and enjoys playing the guitar.
She misses her parents and siblings but plans to go back and see them soon.
Having been through a really rough time trying to get accepted here, she appreciates it all the more.
“It was worth it,” she says with a smile.