A shocking story came to light on Sunday of a Jewish newlywed woman in Brooklyn who recently discovered that her new husband may not be a Lebanese Sephardi Jew as he claimed but possibly an Arab Muslim from Beirut. Update: Chabad of Texas released a statement.
By Yeshiva World News and Anash.org
A shocking story came to light on Sunday of a Jewish newlywed Sephardic woman in Brooklyn who recently discovered that her new husband, supposedly named Eliya, may not be a Lebanese Sephardi Jew as he claimed but possibly an Arab Muslim who may have lived in Beirut.
Yeshiva World News reported that the FBI is involved in the shocking incident and the Jewish newlywed, who only got married a couple of weeks ago, is reportedly now living in a safe house. The woman had become suspicious of various things after living with him for a number of weeks, and one night she discovered a Lebanese passport with his photo and another name.
She immediately contacted family and friends, who reached out to the authorities.
The woman knew that Eliyah was from Lebanon but never doubted that he was Jewish since he was “frum” and spoke Hebrew fluently. He also had a convincing story about why he was cut off from his family.
Apparently, “Eliyah” learned Hebrew and Torah in Texas and then married her.
The man had allegedly produced a “family tree” (riddled with glaring inaccuracies), that even had Ashkenazi names in it (such as Meyer Lansky – the same name as the notorious mobster in the 1920’s.) He also claimed he worked for NASA, and even showed her a “letter” from his co-workers at NASA congratulating them on their wedding. His family did not attend the wedding, and he provided various reasons/excuses why they were all unable to attend.
In addition to the involvement of the FBI in the incident, the US Department of Homeland Security has been briefed about the story as well as the Israeli Consulate General. They are investigating if the man is in the United States legally or not.
In addition to the authorities investigating this shocking story, prominent Rabbonim and community organizations are investigating if in fact he does not have a Jewish mother.
At this point, the woman is being kept in a safe house, until a confirmation is made on his real identity.
Rabbi Yossi Lazaroff, Director of Rohr Chabad Jewish Center at Texas A&M University sent the following statement to Anash.org:
Since 2007, the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center at Texas A & M has been serving all Jewish faculty and students to explore their Judaism.
A student, presenting himself as Eliyah Hawila, who frequented campus Jewish institutions (including serving as president at one), began visiting Chabad in 2018 (he never studied at a Chabad affiliated yeshiva, nor was he proficient in Hebrew).
Last year he met a woman from N.Y. on a Jewish dating website.
He falsely presented himself to her as observant. When I was asked by the woman, I informed her that from what I observed his conduct did not reflect that of an observant Jew.
The fundamental responsibility of the officiating rabbi at a wedding, the mesader kiddushin, is to determine the Jewish status (birur hayahadut) of the couple and ensure that they are both Jewish, single and allowed to marry each other in accordance with Jewish law. I was not officiating the marriage ceremony, nor were we involved in the wedding preparations and our attendance was predicated on the understanding that the officiating rabbi had done their due diligence to confirm the groom’s Jewish status.
The wedding was supposed to be officiated by Rabbi E.Z.. He prepared the ketuba, but was ultimately not able to attend and his son, Rabbi D.Z., officiated.
Prior to the wedding, Rabbi E.Z. and Rabbi D.Z. did not inquire with me about his Jewish status. In advance of the wedding, the father of the bride asked me about his Jewish status and I told him I don’t know and the officiating rabbi needs to determine that.
Mrs. Z. requested that we join the wedding at the couple’s behest, as my wife and I would be in NY then. At the wedding, I was told that his Jewish status was confirmed. As the groom had no family attending, at the request of the couple and the Z.s, we walked him down to the chuppah and I signed the ketubah.
We were clearly all misled about his identity. Our hearts go out to this woman, her family and everyone else deceived by this individual here in Texas and in New York and New Jersey.