Lighting candles for Sabbath in Beitar Illit
Lighting candles for Sabbath in Beitar IllitIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The Seret-Vizhnitz Chassidic community in Haifa was shocked to discover this week that the man who for years had served as the local “Sabbath gentile” was in fact Jewish.

The Ladaat website, which revealed the story, reported that the man in question is of Romanian origin and himself believed that he and his entire family were Christian.

He worked for one of the Chassidic community’s institutions, and helped many people by performing activities prohibited to Jews on the Sabbath. A “Sabbath gentile” may assist in certain types of prohibited Sabbath labor.

Questions were first raised about the man’s background when he mentioned that his mother lit candles on Friday night. At the time, a local Vizhnitz man said, members of the community thought the family was showing knowledge of Jewish customs in order to prove eligibility for Israeli citizenship.

However, chassidim later heard the man singing Jewish songs. When asked what he was singing, he explained that those were songs he had heard as a child.

His employers sent him to a leading posek (Jewish legal scholar) in the city. After a brief investigation into the man’s background, the decision came back: the man is definitely Jewish.

A sign has been hung in the community’s main synagogue warning that the worker is Jewish and must not be asked to do any prohibited labor on the Sabbath.