I will convert Artem Dolgopyat and officiate his wedding – opinion – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on August 7, 2021

The Jerusalem Post just published an article saying that the gymnastic gold medalist, Artem Dolgopyat only the second person to ever win a gold medal for the country cannot get married in Israel. But thats not entirely true. According to an interview done by 103FM, Dolgopyats mother is not Jewish but his father is. The Post attributed Dolgopyats quandary to the lack of civil marriage in Israel and that the Chief Rabbinate (of Israel) will only marry two Jewish people. Although as an Orthodox rabbi, I, too, will not perform intermarriage; that isnt where the story ends.

Dolgopyat is a case of zera Yisrael, meaning he comes from a Jewish line but is not Jewish according to Halacha. The rabbinate has traditionally treated these individuals as someone who is born to two non-Jewish parents and the conversion process is long and arduous (as most things are with the rabbinate). But these people should not be treated as though they have no connection to the Jewish people, especially in Israel.

When someone like Dolgopyat has grown up his entire life as a Jew and as an Israeli, the nuts and bolts of Judaism are part of his cultural upbringing. For this reason alone, the process for conversion should be substantially shortened. These men and women know about Judaism, the holidays, and most importantly what it means to throw their lot in with the Jewish people. Theyve served in the IDF and feel Jewish in their essence. Its high time that we treated them that way.

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I am far from the only person asserting this claim. Rav Chaim Amsalem is one of the most vocal proponents for bringing zera Yisrael into the fold. His organization aptly entitled Zera Yisrael following in the Sephardi tradition works tirelessly to change rabbinic opinion and convert both parents and children of mixed marriages. He correctly writes that the strict practices of the rabbinate are causing assimilation and we need to make it easier for people to become full-fledged members of our community.

For some time now, Ive served on an independent beth din (court of Jewish law) that has no connection to the rabbinate. We convert men and women such as these on an expedited basis; the reason for this is obvious. These Israelis, for all intents and purposes, are Jewish. Some may not even know they are not Jewish in accordance to Halacha until much later in life. When they come before our beth din we tell them that they have a Jewish soul but this process is a legal technicality that has to be done to make it official.

Many of our converts come to our beth din so they can get married. It brings me immense joy to help these people become officially Jewish and marry their beshert (soul mate) in the most meaningful and stress-free way possible. The road to Judaism should not be one of pain and bureaucracy. We should do our best to welcome all who want to become part of the Jewish people with open arms, but especially those who have lived as Jews their entire lives.

So Artem Dolgopyat, even if you werent an Olympic gold medalist, our beth din would be happy to convert you, and Id be honored to officiate at your wedding.

The writer is a mohel, who performs britot all over the world and is the founder of Magen HaBrit, an organization protecting both brit milah and the children who undergo it.

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I will convert Artem Dolgopyat and officiate his wedding - opinion - The Jerusalem Post

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