Disgraceful rejection of a latter-day Ruth

By
October 21, 2010 07:20

Descendants of Holocaust victims should be welcomed among us with open arms.

3 minute read.



MONIQUE MARTINEK

MONIQUE MARTINEK 58. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The Biblical Ruth endeared herself to the Jewish people and embodies our acceptance of foreigners who link their lot with ours. Ruth tugged at our collective heartstrings when she said: “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.” (Ruth 1:16–17).

This selfless, evocative declaration of allegiance sufficed for welcoming Ruth into the fold of ancient Israel. But were Ruth’s story transported to our day, Israel’s Ministry of the Interior would disdainfully reject her application under the Law of Return.

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This is precisely what is befalling a latter-day Ruth who altruistically left comfortable and peaceful Switzerland to live a likely less comfortable life in not-always- peaceful Israel.

As The Jerusalem Post’s Ruth Eglash revealed in Wednesday’s paper, Interior Ministry functionaries are about to refuse the aliya application of pediatric nurse Monique Martinek, who left the Alpine serenity of Switzerland last April and has been studying Hebrew here ever since. She decided on the move after having discovered that her paternal grandmother was murdered by the Nazis in 1941 Vienna.

Martinek researched her roots in Austria’s National Archives and uncovered, among other documents, a Third Reich-issued identification card categorizing her grandmother and great-grandmother as Jews. She likewise found the great-grandmother’s grave in a local Jewish cemetery.

NONE OF this could sway ministry officials. Instead of being impressed with a young Swiss professional’s fervent resolve to dwell with her slain grandmother’s people, they characteristically nitpicked with all the petty antagonisms for which the Shas-run bureaucracy has become so infamous.

The ministry men discovered small print on one of the documents noting that the grandmother testified that she had practiced Roman Catholicism. At the time, plenty of Jews asserted likewise in the vain hope that they might thereby avoid some measure of persecution.

Invariably this had no effect upon the Nazis, though they methodically registered whatever claims desperate Jewish supplicants made.

That the officialdom of the Jewish state should seize on a notation at the bottom of a Nazi document to renege on Martinek’s rights under Law of Return is particularly cynical and coldhearted. Martinek’s grandmother was Jewish enough to be put to a premature death due to her lineage but isn’t Jewish enough to satisfy Eli Yishai’s subordinates.

This must outrage each and every Jew in this country, regardless of politics or degree of religiosity. This is spine-chilling callousness.

Moreover, ministerial scrutiny is not evenhandedly applied to all halachically non-Jewish immigrants who enter Israel under the Law of Return. This seminal law accords automatic Israeli citizenship to anyone with even a single Jewish grandparent.

It is this law which brought to Israel during recent decades hundreds of thousands of non-Jews, mostly from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. In many cases, their ties to the Jewish people are much more tenuous and far less verifiable than Martinek’s. Jewish Agency emissaries have been accused of recruiting Russian-speaking aliya candidates with only the vaguest of hearsay assumptions about a Jewish grandparent.

The Falash Mura of Ethiopia have even less of a connection.

COULD IT be that Martinek is discriminated against because she is on her own and not backed by one of the large vociferous immigrant lobbies and their political patrons? But Martinek’s case is not an individual travail. Europe, especially countries like Poland, has thousands of Jews who grew up as children in non- Jewish care and only belatedly were apprised of their tragic origins. The offspring of many hidden Jews now wish to make their home among us.

Will we spurn them, as we have Martinek? That would be a grievous and unforgivable sin.

If Martinek indeed takes her case to the Supreme Court, we wish her unequivocal success. She and other descendants of Holocaust victims should be welcomed among us with open arms and embraced with all the affection reserved for Ruth.


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