The Interior Ministry has rejected an application for permanent residency by an
Orthodox convert, after the Chief Rabbinate informed the ministry it did not
recognize her conversion.
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After the rabbinate’s decision, the ministry
first rejected her aliya application. She does not want her name
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post
, the woman said that it was
hard to express her feelings.
“It’s weird for me, after all this time.
For the past six years I’ve been thinking I’m Jewish, and I have been accepted
as Jewish by my parents, my sisters, my relatives, my friends, my colleagues and
even strangers – and now suddenly, I’ve been told I’m not Jewish.
told in two short lines, without any explanation, and I received the letter
summarily booting me from the country. I never thought of myself as an ‘illegal
alien’ or an unwelcome person, but suddenly I’m someone whose status is in
question, not by those who know me but, rather, by those who don’t. How
would you feel?”
The woman converted in 2005 under the auspices of the rabbi of
one of the oldest established Orthodox synagogues in the US (located in New
York). The rabbi is a well-respected Orthodox religious leader.
decision by the ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority to
consult the Chief Rabbinate violates a June agreement between authority director
Amnon Ben-Ami and Knesset Committee for Aliya, Absorption and the Diaspora
chairman MK Danny Danon (Likud).
The agreement stipulated that the
ministry would consult with the Jewish Agency regarding the eligibility of
Orthodox converts for aliya, instead of the Chief Rabbinate.
This was due
to a series of aliya applications by Orthodox converts that were rejected by the
rabbinate because it did not “recognize” their conversions.
point, the rabbinate was the default agency for determining the validity of
conversions conducted abroad, as a result of the lack of a centralized Orthodox
body to make these decisions.
The Interior Ministry told the Post the
case was being examined “according to all the criteria,” and that the
Population, Immigration and Border Authority “will act in accordance with all
A spokesman for the Jewish Agency criticized the Interior
Ministry over its decision and said that agency chairman Natan Sharansky would
speak to Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) about it.
“This decision was
a violation of the agreement between the Interior Ministry and the Jewish
Agency,” the spokesman said. “We checked the conversion and concluded that it is
completely in keeping with the requirements of the Law of Return. We told the
ministry that this was the case, and we are saddened that other considerations
went into the decision regarding this person’s aliya.”
Danon told the
, “I trust the wisdom of [Chief] Rabbi Shlomo Amar, but I will look into
this specific incident if I can get the exact details of the case.”
woman is a PhD candidate who has spent time in Israel conducting research for
two six-month periods, in 2008 and again this year.
Having been informed
by the Interior Ministry that she was no longer eligible for tourist visas, she
applied for permanent residency as the only option available to her.
November 16, she received a letter dated November 1, stating that her
application was denied and that she had two weeks to leave the country from the
date the letter was written.
She turned to ITIM: The Jewish- Life
Information Center, for help, which subsequently appealed the decision to the
Interior Ministry. She has been allowed to remain in the country while the case
is under consideration.
“We have reached a new low for converts,” ITIM
director Rabbi Seth Farber said. “The insensitive attitude of the Interior
Ministry is unconscionable and counters Jewish tradition which forbids Jews from
“Converts are exceptionally vulnerable and have
nowhere to turn. The Torah mentions being kind to the convert 36 times! “ITIM
sued the ministry in June, and we will be forced to do so again if they won’t
abide by the agreement. In the past 24 hours ITIM has reached out to Amnon
Ben-Ami – who signed the agreement – and has given them the opportunity to
rectify the situation without having to involve the court.”
a 1988 Supreme Court decision, the criteria determining the aliya eligibility of
converts are that the community and rabbi through which they converted must be
recognized as legitimate, and that in turn, the community and rabbi recognize
the convert as a Jew and a community member in good standing.
Conservative and Reform converts the verification process is simplified by the
centralized community bodies for each religious stream, which can easily confirm
whether someone has converted through their offices.
The lack of a
central umbrella body for all Orthodox communities makes this verification much
harder for Orthodox converts, resulting in the confirmation of aliya eligibility
of these converts being contracted out to the Chief
Historically, instead of addressing the legal requirements as
stipulated by the Supreme Court, the rabbinate approved or rejected a convert’s
aliya application based on its own criteria. Due to this, Orthodox converts
found it much harder to make aliya than those who had converted through other
streams of Judaism.
The agreement between the Population, Immigration and
Border Authority and Danon states that in cases in which the Jewish Agency
cannot verify an Orthodox conversion, the Interior Ministry may consult with the
In the current case, the Jewish Agency verified that the
community and the rabbi through which the woman converted were authentic, and
the rabbi recognized her as having converted under his auspices, and as a member
of his community.