By COLlive reporter
Over the last 2 weeks, rabbis and activists in Jewish communities in New York and Texas have been investigating the case of a couple who were joyfully married at a ceremony in Brooklyn.
Sally, a young Jewish Sephardic woman, went out on a date with a man she met on a Jewish dating website. He presented his name as Eliyah Haliwa, an observant Jew from Beirut, Lebanon who was fluent in Hebrew and frum Jewish life.
The couple was soon married at the wedding hall of Ohel David & Shlomo-Torat Israel Sephardic Cong. of Manhattan Beach, New York. In their wedding video, the newlyweds are seen smiling as they are surrounded by a crowd of frum Jews.
All that changed when Sally discovered her husband’s Lebanese passport identifying him by another name and appearance. According to a report on Yeshiva World News, Sally contacted relatives and friends who reached out to authorities.
According to the report, the FBI, US Department of Homeland Security and the Israeli Consulate General in New York were contacted about the case.
Sally is reportedly in a safe house.
One of the credentials Haliwa presented while dating was that he visited the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. The center’s Shliach Rabbi Yossi Lazaroff released the following statement to COLlive.com on Monday:
“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 New York 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 Ezra Zafrani. He prepared the ketuba, but was ultimately not able to attend and his son, Rabbi David Zafrani, officiated.
“Prior to the wedding, Rabbi Ezra Zafrani and Rabbi David Zafrani 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. Zafrani requested that we join the wedding at the couple’s behest, as my wife and I would be in New York 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 Zafranis, 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.”
Calls to Rabbi Ezra Zafrani, a resident of Lakewood, NJ, and his son Rabbi David Zafrani, a resident of Midwood, NY, were not answered or returned.