(JTA) – Israeli gymnast Artem Dolgopyat is not only making headlines around the world for winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Dolgopyat, 24, who immigrated from Ukraine at age 12, is engaged but not allowed to be married in Israel because he is not Jewish according to traditional Jewish law. Only his father’s side of the family is Jewish. His case has added fresh fuel to the fire in the ongoing battles over religious policy in the Jewish state, as well as the situation of the many Israelis like Dolgopyat.
Israel offers automatic citizenship to anyone with one Jewish grandparent, but Israel’s Chief Rabbinate says only those with a Jewish mother are Jewish. The Chief Rabbinate also controls marriage registration for Jews in Israel and recognizes only Orthodox Jewish marriage. Israel does not offer civil marriage and technically prohibits Jewish weddings conducted outside of the Chief Rabbinate’s auspices. In practice, that means hundreds of thousands of Israelis with non-Jewish mothers, many of them from the former Soviet Union, cannot marry in Israel. Israelis considered non-Jewish by the Chief Rabbinate can be married abroad and have that marriage recognized by Israel.
Dolgopyat’s case, however, has brought the issue of marriage restrictions to the fore in Israel, where most of the population supports instituting civil marriage. Israel’s recently formed government is pursuing a slate of reforms to religious policy, though civil marriage does not appear to be on the table.
Main Photo: Artem Dolgopyat of Team Israel celebrates winning gold in the men’s floor exercise final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Aug. 1, 2021. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)