Daniel, Brother (Oswald Rufeisin)

(b. 1922)
   Carmelite monk in Israel. The complex question ‘Who is a Jew?’ came sharply before the Israel Supreme Court in 1962 in the case of Brother Daniel. He was a Polish Jew called Oswald Rufeisin who, during the Nazi occupation, was hidden in a Catholic convent. He was baptized, became a Carmelite monk, and in 1958 was sent to the Carmelite monastery on Mount Carmel in Haifa.
   Brother Daniel continued to regard himself as a Jew, identified with his people. In Israel he applied for citizenship under the Law of the Return and for registration as a Jew in the population register. His application was rejected by the minister of the interior, and he brought proceedings before the Supreme Court. By a majority of four out of five judges, the court upheld the ruling of the minister. The judgement conceded that under Jewish religious law, an apostate did not cease to be a Jew. But the Law of the Return was a secular enactment that had to be interpreted by the court in accordance with the intention of the legislature. For purposes of this specific law, the term Jew should be held to have the everyday meaning that an ordinary citizen would give to it, that is, as being inconsistent with professing the Christian faith. Such a meaning was based on Jewish history, on Zionist aims, on the urge for collective survival, and on the bond between the State of Israel and the Diaspora. The court emphasized that its attitude was not coloured by the persecution of the Jews by the Catholic church in medieval times.
   After this adverse judgement, Brother Daniel became a naturalized Israeli citizen, a process not dependent upon the Law of Return. In 1970, the law was amended to incorporate a partial definition of a Jew, as one who was born of a Jewish mother and had not adopted another faith.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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  • Daniel, Brother (Rufeisin, Oswald) — (b. 1922)    Carmelite monk in Israel. A Polish Jew who, during the Nazi occupation, was hidden in a Catholic convent. He was baptized, became a Carmelite monk, yet viewed himself as a Jew. He applied for citizenship under the Law of Return, but… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

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