While laudable for their compassion, Rabbi Seth Farber’s efforts simply send a message to the rabbinate that its Kafkaesque demands for proof of one’s Judaism are legitimate. It pained me to read about the hoops Farber jumped through just to come up with the fact that his client’s mother was decended from people named Goldstein, Mersky, and Reuben.
Nowadays a Jewish surname proves nothing except that one’s father (usually) is Jewish, a useless fact halachically speaking. In fact, during my entire immigration process, I don’t recall once being asked to produce proof of my Judaism. This is all the more curious since my surname at the time (Reiz) is not recognizably Jewish, and my appearance isn’t particularly Jewish.
This is all to say that clearly we must break the rabbinate’s stranglehold ― not simply monopoly ― on matters of personal status. Certainly if you’re a citizen, you’re entitled to a marriage license, period; denying one would seem unconstitutional. I’d be interested in knowing if ultra-Orthodox couples have to apply for a marriage license at the rabbinate, and if so, if they are asked for proof of their Judaism. I have my doubts; if any reader has first-hand knowledge, please inform the rest of us.