By Bas Leah
When I read the recent disturbing story on COLlive about the Lebanese man claiming to be Jewish and going on to marry a Jewish woman, I feel compelled to put pen to paper and publicize the following account of what happened, one Shabbos, in our home, and then, subsequently, in our wider community.
We are a Chabad family based in London. Two of our adult children were still living at home at the time. As I love having guests, I sign up our family on Shabbat.com as willing to host for a Shabbos meal, and, if necessary, to sleep over.
It did not take long before we had a response.
I’ll call her Sarah. On her profile, she listed as a reference a rabbi and also included two photos of herself, one wearing sunglasses and the other with her back to the camera. Both photos, I thought, were strange.
Sarah sent us a message with a request if she could come and spend a certain Shabbos with us.
The Website did/does suggest that you, as a host, should do your research and check up with any references given. So that is exactly what I did.
I called the Rabbi on Sarah’s profile and he assured me that she was Jewish and he knew her.
So Sarah came but it did not take long for me to start suspecting there was something not quite right. The more we spoke and I probed her the more doubtful and suspicious I became that she was telling the truth. For example, she claimed to come from a Belz family, she wore thick black tights but the rest of her clothes and other parts of her story did not match and add up.
I was sure something was very wrong when I came into the dining room and she was “davening” but facing the wrong way, her back to Mizrach. Now, what is the first question a guest in a strange house asks, frum or baal teshuva, if they want to daven? The first question they ask is “where is Mizrach?”
My kids and husband thought I was imagining it all, they told me to stop and they were not worried.
During Shabbos, she said she had met this boy and he would be coming and that they would be going out together. When he did come to fetch her I realized that I, in fact, knew him from when he was a little boy.
Sarah stayed Motzei Shabbos and left early Sunday morning.
I straight away, again, called the Rabbi asking if he was sure that she was Jewish because she said, and did things, that caused me to distrust her authenticity. He claimed she was Jewish. I asked how did he know for sure. He said she had shown him some documentation.
I let the matter go and put it out of my mind.
Some time went by. Then we heard that Sarah had gotten engaged to the boy. She even invited us to the engagement party and everyone thought how sweet she was.
The truth was not long in coming and proved my intuition had been correct.
A young man, in another European town, had heard who this Chossen’s “Kallah” was and he immediately informed the family that Sarah was, in fact, NOT JEWISH, and that she had done the same thing to him and soon after getting engaged her true identity was discovered
After hearing this, I again called the Rabbi to let him know the truth, that Sarah was in fact not Jewish and that most probably any documentation she had presented to him must have been fraudulent.
This whole incident happened some years ago and now that, unfortunately, this subject is in the Jewish world’s news, it shows how much extreme care must be taken to protect our community from imposters.
As for hosting strangers for Shabbos, I deleted our online open invitation.