The Strange Case of Brother Daniel

Reference: Jewish World Review

by David Twersky

Brother Daniel Rufeisen’s death in Israel last week puts to an end one of the strangest stories to emerge from the horror years in Europe more than half a century ago.

Brother Daniel led the Carmelite monks in Haifa. His fame came almost four decades ago when he immigrated to Israel and asked to be listed as a Jew under the Law of Return. The case highlighted the bizarre twists and turns of Jewish identity politics. Those familiar only with the modern “Who is a Jew?” controversies may find it interesting to discover that the first great test case in Israeli law centered on a Catholic priest who saw his national fate and destiny as part of the Jewish people.

Moreover, the Chief Rabbinates and Israel’s Supreme Court’s positions were the reverse of today’s predictable stands. The rabbinate ruled that the priest should be given citizenship as a Jew; born to Jewish parents, his fate was with his people, regardless of any faith decisions he had made along the way.

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