Following ‘Post’ report: Convert's Jewish status finally recognized

David Ben Moshe’s Orthodox conversion was initially rejected by the Interior Ministry despite having married through the Chief Rabbinate.

David Ben Moshe together with his wife and child (photo credit: COURTESY DAVID BEN MOSHE)
David Ben Moshe together with his wife and child
David Ben Moshe, an American Jewish convert with a criminal past who changed the direction of his life, has finally gained recognition of his conversion by the Interior Ministry and is to receive a temporary residency permit.
The decision came after a report and an editorial in The Jerusalem Post two weeks ago calling to recognize Ben Moshe’s conversion.
After three tortuous years of insensitive and tone deaf bureaucracy – during which his conversion, his prior conviction and even his racial identity appeared to present almost insurmountable obstacles – Ben Moshe now appears to be on the path to citizenship.
Ben Moshe converted through an Orthodox process in 2017 under the auspices of Rabbi Etan Mintz of B’nai Israel in Baltimore, Maryland, and he subsequently came to Israel on a study trip.
He applied for citizenship in May 2018 and met a woman whom he married the following August under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate.
Last month, the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority rejected Ben Moshe’s request for citizenship. It noted his past criminal conviction and the fact that he had not spent nine months with the community he converted with after completing his conversion, a technical requirement not usually enforced, especially when evidence is provided that the convert is an active member of a synagogue in Israel, as Ben Moshe has done.
On Tuesday, the authority wrote to Ben Moshe’s representatives at the Itim religious services advisory organization, telling him that “after a review of his request and while addressing all the documents in his file, including his association with a Jewish community in Israel,” it was decided he was eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return.
The letter said that because Ben Moshe had a past criminal record, he would be given a trial period of residency on an A5 visa, after which his request for permanent citizenship will be reviewed.
Ben Moshe told the Post that he was more optimistic about his future in Israel, but that the vague nature of the Interior Ministry’s statement nevertheless gave him cause for concern.
“We’re hopeful but we have some worries, including that the letter says they will start a trial period but doesn’t say how long it will be,” he said.
“We don’t want this to turn into something where the test period is indefinitely long or that when it’s over they decide to do another one. The ministry needs to give me clear criteria which I need to meet to demonstrate I’m not a threat to the Israeli public.
“We think that the last two years I’ve been here without incident – in which I have volunteered, coordinated a volunteer program, and spent a year studying Torah in Pardes where I had a social justice scholarship – should be sufficient to demonstrate that already.”
Itim director Rabbi Seth Farber was more hopeful, however, that the new development would bring an eventual end to the saga.
“Itim is gratified that David Ben Moshe’s story will reach a happy ending, and that we played a role in this conclusion,” he said.
“We hope and believe that the Interior Ministry will take David’s case as a precedent for recognizing the Jewish identities of those who legitimately convert to Judaism overseas and wish to make aliyah.”