A Jewish newlywed discovered her husband’s secret identity as a Shi’ite Muslim when she found his passport.
By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News.
A Jewish newlywed woman living in Brooklyn has discovered that her new husband was not a Lebanese Sephardi Jew, as he claimed, but a Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim.
The couple had only been married a few weeks when the wife, who has not been named, became suspicious of her husband, known as Eliyah Haliwa, when she found a Lebanese passport with his face but another name, Yeshiva World reported.
The woman reached out to friends and family who contacted the authorities. She is now staying in a safe house.
The family believed ‘Eliyah’ was Jewish as he presented as Orthodox and spoke Hebrew. He also claimed to have connections with Chabad of Texas University.
According to Rabbi Yosef Lazarof, who manages the Chabad branch, Haliwa attempted to take part in Jewish activities when he arrived at the university in 2018.
Haliwa “began visiting Chabad along with other local campus Jewish institutions (including serving as president at one of them),” Lazarov said in a statement. “He would occasionally attend Shabbat meals at Chabad, and infrequently attended the services or Torah classes.”
Last year Haliwa enrolled on a dating site, presenting himself as a religious Jew, where he met his Syrian Jewish bride-to-be.
“When the relationship grew more serious, the girl reached out to me to check him out, and we – my wife and I, based on what we saw the few times he arrived for Shabbat dinner or to pray – saw that his lifestyle was not that of a religious Jew, to say the least,” Lazarov later told Israel Hayom.
According to The Yeshiva World, Haliwa produced a family tree that subsequently turned out to be suspect – it included the name Meyer Lansky, a notorious mobster from the 1920s – but never introduced his wife or her family to his own, making excuses about why they were unable to meet or attend the wedding.
Instead, he was accompanied under the chuppah by Lazarov.
“The wedding itself was officiated by Rabbi [Ezra] Zafrani’s son, Rabbi David Zafrani,” Lazarov explained in his statement. “As my wife and I were in New York for other reasons, Rabbi David Zafrani, who was officiating in place of his father, and his wife, asked us to join the wedding. As the groom had no family attending, at the request of the couple and the Zafranis, we walked him down the aisle and I signed the ketubah, which had been drafted by Rabbi Ezra Zafrani.”
He added: “We were not officiating, and our involvement was predicated on the understanding that, as supervising rabbis, Ezra and David Zafrani had done their due diligence to confirm the groom’s Jewish status.”
Rabbi Ezra Zafrani has since issued a public apology and accepted responsibility for the mistake.
“I was completely misled by this man and others about his Judaism,” Zafrani Sr. said, according to the Haredim 10 website.
He continued: “I’m amazed at myself for allowing this to happen, and I have no one else to blame. I have no words to describe the pain that this has caused our rabbis and our community. No apology can heal the wounds, but it must be made.”
It is believed that Haliwa did not concealed his identity because of antisemitic motives; rather, it appears he wanted to be Jewish. It is not clear why he didn’t convert through the usual channels.
Following his wife’s report to the authorities, the FBI, NYPD Intel Division, NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force, and ICE officials interviewed Haliwa. They have confirmed that both his Lebanese and U.S. passports are valid and that he has no terror connections.