Aliya expert: Conversion and aliyah

LXXIX: I cannot prove my Jewish lineage because my ancestors were made to hide their Judaism in the 1920s in Spain. I am considering conversion and aliyah. If I do these, will I lose my Spanish citizenship?

aliyaexpert88 (photo credit: )
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The expert is Maurice Singer, Senior Aliyah Consultant at the Jewish Agency. While every care and attention is made to give accurate answers, no responsibility can be taken by the writer or the Jewish Agency if the information offered may prove to be misleading. Send us your questions and please leave your comments on the Q&A below.
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  • For Vol LXXV to Vol LXXVII click here * * * LXXIX Q: I am Jewish born and raised. I married and divorced a non-Jew who never converted. I do not belong to a Temple now. How do I prove I am still a Jew to Israel? A: Shouldn't be difficult. What about parents, siblings, gravestones, childhood schooling?? Form years of experience I have found that most people who really are really Jewish don't have a problem to prove it. Q: I made Aliyah in October 2007. I returned back home in August 2008 and had already received all my sal klita payments. A bunch of things came up once I returned home and I am not sure when I will be able to go back to Israel, maybe in a year or two. I'm afraid that if I wait too long the Israeli government is going to make me pay back all the money they gave me. How does this work if you didn't stay for a full year after making Aliyah?? I hear they make you pay them at the airport when you try to go back. A: The only repayable benefit refers to customs benefits like if you purchased a fridge at a reduced price. Everything else such as one-way ticket to Israel, Sal Klita (Absorption Basket) are grants and not loans. Q: My grandfather's family was Jewish altough we cannot prove it. From what I have learned, back in the 20s in Spain, Jews were very secretive for fear, and in fact they pose as Christians in their everyday lives. I know that to make aliyah, my statement is obviously not enough and that's why I'm considering a proper conversion to Judaism. I have also considered moving to Israel with a working visa and approaching the conversion over there. One question remains, when I convert, and only if I do convert, will I have to give up my current Spanish citizenship? A: Conversion is a religious act and has nothing to do with Citizenship. Therefore you could covert to Judaism. However Spain does not recognize dual citizenship and were you to obtain Israeli Citizenship you could lose your Spanish. Q: I am in good health, age 59, single, divorced, want to made Aliyah. I am not picky,  willing to do any type of work. How much cash should I have in hand before I  make Aliyah? And, how difficult will it be for me to find work so that I can support myself?  Third question: Why must one wait a full year following conversion before making Aliyah? If a person has been known in the community for several years before making it official can that person submit information to prove such circumstance so he/she may reduce the waiting time? A: No. The Israeli Immigration Authorities demand that converts spend a minimum of one year as active members in their Jewish Community abroad before granting an Immigrants Visa. This is done to prevent "conversions out of convenience" making Aliyah and reaping the benefits. The one year before has nothing to do with the validity of the conversion. I suggest that you invest in a trip to Israel prior to making a final decision. Once here you will be able to check the price of renting units of dwelling, cost of living. Job market. This way you will get an accurate idea of how much you will need. Q: I want to to move to Israel, mainly by doing Aliyah. My situation is this: I converted with a USA Rabbi, (The Rabbi have all the accreditations and authority as any Rabbi), but in my country conversions don´t have the support of the local Jewish community. Is this an inconvenient for me to make Aliyah? Being already Jewish but without the approval of the local Jewish community? In any case I'm a member of a little Jewish community supported by the US Rabbi I mentioned before, and recognized by other countries Jewish communities and Institutions, so What would be the path for me to make Aliyah, or just move to Israel as a Jew without problems? A: I suggest you ask your converting Rabbi on the chances of you joining his congregation for a year or to recommend a congregation in another town or country otherwise you will encounter problems here. Q: I was born to a 100% halachically Jewish father and a mother with Jewish heritage that is unproven. I was raised as a Jew in the Reform movement. I attended Sunday School throughout my childhood and had a Bar Mitzvah. Because the Reform movement recognizes patriarchal descent, I was never formally converted. When I later asked the rabbi who conducted my Bar Mitzvah about this he told me that the fact that I was circumcised at 8 days old, together with the learning and (Reform) kabbalat mitzvot that I did as part of my Bar Mitzvah ceremony, that can count as a Reform conversion if someone requires it. Since my bar mitzvah I have come much closer to Orthodox Judaism and I now plan to undergo an Orthodox conversion in the next few months (in Australia) under the auspices of a Beth Din which IS recognized by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. My question is this: if I choose to make aliyah LESS THAN 1 YEAR after my Orthodox Conversion (which I could easily do with my grandparents' ketubah, which was issued in Tel Aviv during the Mandate Period - I also have their te'udat nisu'in), will I have problems with Misrad HaPnim registering me as "Jewish"? And do the rabbinate make an issue of an oleh who has a recent Orthodox Conversion, even if it's from a Beth Din whose conversions they recognize? A: The Rabbinate will not make an issue of a conversion carried out by an authority that they recognize. You can make Aliyah at any time by virtue of your father, but in order to get the correct designation from the Ministry of Interior, I would definitely recommend waiting a year after completing your Orthodox Giur. * * * LXXVIII Q: I lived in Israel as a non-Jewish citizen (paternal Jewish line) for 10 years, served in the army and hold an Israeli passport. I have a large Jewish family living in Israel. I left Israel about 5 years ago. Currently I live in S.A. and am married to a non-Jewish woman with two non-Jewish step-daughters. These are children from her previous marriage. We also have a son. What would be the procedure (and implications) bringing my family to Israel? And does my son have an automatic right to an Israeli passport? A: Your son is he Son of an Israeli Citizen and therefore would be able to apply for an Israeli passport once he is back in Israel. If you as an Israeli decided to return to Israel you of course may do so. Your wife will have to enter as a tourist and apply for permission to stay (A-5 Visa). This visa will also apply to her children providing that they have the permission from their father to be allowed out of their current country. Q: My mother was a Jew from Poland, my father French Christian. I am not circumcised and have been educated Christian but know a lot about Judaism through my mom, my uncles and aunts. However, they were not very religious. I have been told that to become Jew, I only need to be circumcised. How is it? A: Painful, I suppose. But seriously, you should consult with a local Rabbi after you have documentary proof that your Mother was indeed Jewish. Q: I recently converted in the United States via a modern orthodox rabbi. Although both my husband (who is Jewish) and I would love to live in Israel, I am extremely worried that I would not be considered Jewish (given everything I have read in Jpost concerning how Israeli Rabbis are not recognizing Orthodox conversions outside of Israel). If I have children, I want them to be considered Jewish, etc. I have heard horror stories from some of my friends in the State who have converted via Orthodoxy - having to undergo another conversion in Israel and how extremely difficult it is. Please tell me if my fears are real. A: I don't know what you mean by "a modern Orthodox Rabbi". You must ask him whether the Council of Rabbis that he belongs to performs conversions that are recognized by the Israeli Rabbinate. If you are not sure then you might want to send me the details of your conversion. I assume that you also had your children converted when you converted. Q: I had a Reform conversion and am in the process of an Orthodox conversion. My husband is Jewish. My maternal grandfather was Jewish, his mother was Jewish, etc. Would I be eligible to make aliya? Would I be considered a Jew in Israel if I have completed an American Orthodox conversion? A: If you have completed an Orthodox conversion in the USA and have spent at least one year following your conversion as an active member of the Jewish Community, then you should have no problem being recognized as Jewish in Israel. Regarding Aliyah even as a non-Jew, if married to a Jew (who is not Israeli) would make you "Aliyah friendly". Q: I made aliyah in 1991 and I have Israeli citizenship. I left Israel to Canada where my mother later died from cancer. In 1994 I married Canadian (Jewish) woman and  we had 2 children. My wife left our family and I did not know NOTHING about her whereabouts. However, she contacted me in 2007 telling me that we have another son that was born in 1999 and that she do not want him anymore. I had 2 minutes to decide Ill take him or she gonna place him to social workers which gonna place him to foster parents (non Jewish). I decided to take my second son. He is living now with me in Serbia with his older brother. Since 2000 I demanded Israeli Embassy to help me return to Israel, they refused claiming that "Misrad ha Pnim" is refusing because I do not have any custody papers nor "Ktuba" nor proof that my ex wife was Jewish etc. Result was that without any documents for my child I was not able to scholar him in Serbia. I traveled Abroad (to France) with false passports I visited the Israeli Embassy in Paris after security check they believed me that I'm Meir SAVYON Israeli citizen, they knew my story (although 30% altered) but after staying in Paris 6 month they did not HELP me and my son. In the meantime I was arrested by French Police and send back to Serbia.(deported) Israeli Embassy refused assistance. I tried second time in Austria, there was no results with exceptions that they obtained for me TEUDAT MAAVAR so I can go back to Israel, but document was Issued only to me but not to my son. I complained And they said to..:"... leave child in Austria and go without him to Israel..." I was upset and I left via Germany to France but I run of lack in Minhen where Police entered Euroline bus that I traveled an demanded, "auswais..." Of course I did not have visa, neither papers in order...They detained me for 2 hours. When I was questioned by the Police I said that I'm Jewish and Israeli citizen and that they can check that with Israeli Embassy. They soon let me go. They paid taxi for me and my son to live Germany back to Vienna. They paid Hotel too for 4 days till my friend Daniel did not came to pick me up and take me to Bratislava Slovakia where I had to report to German Embassy and proof that I left Germany. I did that. Since then I returned to Serbia and live miserable life with two children that are not scolarised, that are Jewish and that our right as a Jewish was denied now 8 years to reenter Israel. Can you HELP US? Can my children go to school in Israel as other Jewish children? Serbian citizens are traveling to Israel, they work there, do not pay taxes,their children attend school there, speak Hebrew and us an Jewish, Israeli Citizen we are forgotten... A: You must try to make contact with your wife in order to get copies of the 3 children's birth certificates. This will show that you are their father. She must also provide you with a notarized document to the fact that you are their Guardian. Without this  you wont be able to get assistance to get back to Israel I'm afraid. Q: It's my understanding that the Israeli Supreme Court just ruled that converts do not have to wait the requisite 1-year waiting period. I had a conversion to remove a safek and have Jewish ancestry (both sides) - does this also help? A: Your ancestry is irrelevant here. It is not a waiting period. The Israeli Immigration Authorities demand that converts spend a minimum of one year as active members in their Jewish Community abroad before granting an Immigrant Visa. This is done to prevent "conversions out of convenience" making Aliyah and reaping the benefits. The one year before has nothing to do with the validity of the conversion which I believe is what the High Court was asked to rule. Q: I'm a citizen born abroad doing a MASA program in Israel this year. I don't want to make aliyah now, but I wanted to avoid forfeiting benefits in case I do so in a couple years, so do not have or want to get a teudat zehut card (though do have a number). I'd like to get a part-time job. To do so, what, if anything, do I need to do with bituach leumi? Can I just not deal with them and use the (Harel) insurance that's the default with my program? If I do have to register with them, does that start the clock on aliyah benefits?  A: You have a problem. I understand and sympathize but as we say in Israel "You cant dance at both weddings at the same time". If you get a TZ your benefits will begin. Your Harel insurance is NOT Bituach Leumi so don't mix them up. Your employer must deduct Bituach Leumi (national Insurance) by law which covers both you and him for types of instances. Solution, if your employer accepts your TZ number without wishing to physically see your TZ you should be OK (Please note the indemnity clause at the beginning of this column!!!) Q: My question is in regards to Reform conversion and eligibility for aliyah. I underwent a Reform conversion in May 2007. The conversion consisted of 8-9 month course, followed by hatafat dam brit, mikveh, and beit din consisting of my two congregational rabbis and a layman. Two months later I went to Israel and stayed for 1 year. I am now back in the US and have continued to participate in the community in which I converted. I intend to make aliyah and possibly undergo an Orthodox conversion upon entering the country (Israel).  When would I become eligible for aliyah? I would like to go in May 2009. Thank you in advance for your response. A: Once you can show that you have been an active member in your community abroad for at least one year, you may make Aliyah. * * *
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