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Who Is a Jew?

Problem

Israel’s State religious establishment exercises its authority to determine the official Jewish status of Israeli citizens, and of Jews who seek to immigrate to or marry in Israel with rigidity and bias. The Rabbinate both rejects the Jewish identities of nearly a half-million citizens with Jewish roots who immigrated to Israel under the Law of Return, and discourages their conversions. The Rabbinate and Interior Ministry undertake approximately 5,000 investigations into the Jewish identities of citizens each year. In addition, the Rabbinate sometimes relies on DNA testing to prove citizens’ Jewish identities—a practice we believe is scientifically flawed and halachically unjustifiable. In recent years, Israel’s religious establishment has become increasingly exclusionary, undermining immigration to Israel, Israel’s Jewish demographic majority, and the unity of the Jewish people.

ITIM Achievements

  • Brought the issue of DNA testing to prove Jewish identity before Knesset Members, and formulated a strategy for halting its use
  • Secured a ruling from the Attorney General to prevent State rabbinical courts from maintaining lists of citizens whose official Jewish status they claim require clarification
  • Prevented the Rabbinate from conducting third-party Jewish identity investigations
  • Reduced the size of the Rabbinate’s list of citizens whose Jewish identity it questions
  • Won Supreme Court cases that required the Interior Ministry to reinstate citizens’ official Jewish status following unwarranted Jewish identity investigations
  • Won a Supreme Court case that prevented the State from using private investigators in Jewish identity investigations

Current Activities

ITIM currently is working in the Knesset and in the courts to end unwarranted State rabbinical court investigations into citizens’ Jewish identities, Interior Ministry revocations of citizens’ official Jewish status, and the Chief Rabbinate’s use of DNA testing to prove Jewish identity.

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