After a two-year battle to stay in Israel, the State Attorney's Office finally ruled last week that the Interior Ministry has 45 days to provide a US-born Jewish adoptee with full citizenship according to the Law of Return, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
In a story first reported by the Post in January 2008, California-raised Timothy Nicholas Steger, 39, presented the ministry with an interesting dilemma whether to recognize his biological links to Judaism, even though he was adopted as an infant by a Catholic family.
Officials at the ministry claimed that his connection to Judaism had been severed the minute he was adopted but Steger's lawyers, and now the State Attorney's Office, argue that the Law of Return includes anyone with a Jewish parent or grandparent.
"I can't say if I've won or not until I have my Israeli ID in my hand," a cautious Steger told the Post in an e-mail interview from the US. "However, it is definitely a good feeling and it would be great if, when I return, my papers are waiting at the airport so that I can be treated like every other oleh."
Steger, whose birth father was one Robert J. Kates, a New York-state Jew and member of Temple Beth Zion in Buffalo, was adopted as an infant by a devout Catholic family with anti-Semitic leanings. While his siblings joined the neo-Nazi movement, Steger went in a different direction, first dating a Jewish woman and later, after finding out about his Jewish roots, visiting Israel.
He arrived here for good in February 2007 but was subsequently turned down for aliya seven months later when the Interior Ministry deemed that the connection with his biological parents had been severed the moment he was adopted.
However, citing the Law of Return, which states anyone with at least one Jewish parent or grandparent is entitled to immigrate to Israel, and with the help of a recent legal opinion presented to the Supreme Court by Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, Steger continued to petition the ministry to become a citizen.
Last month, Steger's legal representative Attorney Michael Decker from Jerusalem law firm Yehuda Raveh petitioned the Supreme Court on his behalf, calling on them to hold an emergency hearing in the case.
On September 24, the presiding judge called on the State Attorney's Office to make a final decision. They ruled that the Interior Ministry had until November 26 to provide Steger with citizenship.
"I rally hope that the Interior Ministry will respect this decision and grant him citizenship," said Decker, adding that in the past this has not always happened. An Interior Ministry spokesman did not immediately respond Thursday.