Israel’s Ministry of Religious Affairs is creating a database for documenting Jews for purposes of expediting marriage registration in Israel. The move is raising some serious privacy concerns, as well as concerns that the religious establishment of Israel is attempting to extend it’s authority over Jews in the Diaspora.
The Jewish Week has two very important articles on this:
Jewish Week reports:
“What’s new is that Israel’s religious establishment wants to take their authority and make it international,” Rabbi Farber told the Jewish Week. “Ostensibly the goal is to check someone’s Jewishness with the click of a button.” But in actuality, the rabbi said, “this isn’t a registry of who’s Jewish as much as a tool to declare people not Jewish. Inevitably, when it comes to a database, those not on it for whatever reason are subject to suspicion.”
Rabbi Farber said the creation of a database, presumably with the close cooperation of the Chief Rabbinate and at a cost of more than $10 million, raises many unanswered questions.
“Who will decide who is in and who is out? How will it address the overwhelming majority of Jews who aren’t ultra-Orthodox like them? Who will input the data and have access to it? What criteria will be used? How can someone not on the list get on the list? What if someone spiteful tries to get someone off the list? What about security and privacy?”
Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, noted that Israeli’s rabbinic establishment is “already excluding categories of Jews” — including Jews converted by the non-Orthodox streams — “and delegitimizing them and their religious communities.
With Israel’s Chief Rabbinate maintaining a database for imposing its will upon world Jewry, what could possibly go wrong? Well, just about everything from corrupt conversion reversals (or approvals), to breaches of insecure data, to the exclusion of Jews who can’t satisfy the rabbinate. Jewish Week’s articles explore many of the unfortunate possibilities.