Swedish daughter of Holocaust survivor faces deportation from Israel

Population and Immigration Bureau reject applicant’s aliya on grounds that she was baptized.

Rebecca Floer (photo credit: ARIELA WEIZMAN / TIBERIAS)
Rebecca Floer
The Swedish daughter of a Holocaust survivor faces deportation from Israel next week, based on claims that she was baptized as a baby and has ties to a messianic organization.
Rebecca Floer, 64, has been living parttime in northern Israel on a renewed tourist visa for the past three years. But after she applied to immigrate to Israel, not only was her application denied, but her tourist visa was shortened and she received notice that she must leave the country by this coming Sunday.
She originally applied for aliya two-and-a-half years ago, and after it was denied earlier this year, she appealed the decision.
Her appeal was rejected, and rather than being granted her usual three-month visa, she received only a one-month one.
The official who gave her the visa said she could apply to extend it, but a request to do so was rejected.
“It looks like I’m being punished for applying for aliya,” Floer told The Jerusalem Post.
Since she has been residing in Israel on a tourist visa, she was not permitted to work here, and continued working as a psychologist in Gothenburg, Sweden, where she splits her time with the Israeli town of Poriya.
The Law of Return allows for anyone with a Jewish grandparent to make aliya, but excludes those who have voluntarily changed their religion. The Population and Immigration Bureau rejected her application on the grounds that she was baptized when she was one week old.
Rebecca Floer as a child with her father. (Courtesy Kornfeld Family)
Rebecca Floer as a child with her father. (Courtesy Kornfeld Family)
A letter by Population and Immigration Authority official Irit Laubel also said that they had received information that she is “presented as a Messianic Jewish psychologist who believes in Jesus” and is affiliated with a Swedish Evangelist organization.
Floer has stressed that she is Jewish and denied claims that she has any connection to any Christian organization.
She told the Post that she participated once in a debate on Jesus at the request of a Swedish Christian parliamentarian who invited her to participate due to her Jewish identity. She notes that a Muslim also participated in the event.
“I have no further connection with the organizers of this event,” she told the Post.
“I have suffered a great injustice, because all my life I have suffered from antisemitism because of my Jewishness, and now that I am trying to live in Israel, the homeland of the Jews in which I feel protected, they are renouncing me.... I feel that this is my home and I have security and a sense of family... in contrast to the situation in Sweden, which is getting worse,” Floer said.
Last Yom Kippur, Floer related, there was a Nazi parade in the city of Gothenburg.
“Since childhood I have suffered from antisemitism, which has intensified in recent years, and recently a swastika was even painted at the entrance to my apartment,” she said.
Floer’s lawyer, Shira Schwartz Meirman, maintains that the Law of Return applies to Floer since she did not voluntarily convert to another religion.
“Her father was a Jew and was even persecuted during the Holocaust and lost some of his family members due to their Jewish identity. While he distanced himself from the religion after the Holocaust, he did not believe in another religion, and therefore his daughter is entitled to immigrate to Israel,” Schwartz Meirman said.
But the Population and Immigration Authority said in a statement to the Post: “This is the daughter of a Jewish man who married a Christian and lived for years as a Christian. The daughter was baptized in the church immediately upon her birth.
In light of the above, and after the details were examined carefully, the reservation to the Law of Return was applied to them as those who converted.”
Floer has stated that her father, Josef Kornfeld, never converted from Judaism but only distanced himself from religion following the Holocaust.
He was born in Austria and was sent with his sisters to an orphanage on the eve of World War II. His parents and two youngest siblings were killed at the hands of the Nazis, and in 1939, at the age of 14, he was transferred to Sweden in a Kindertransport with two of his sisters.
In Sweden, he went on to marry a Swedish Christian woman.
Floer was baptized soon after birth while still in the hospital, at the request of her mother. Her then-atheist father did not object, wishing to integrate into Sweden.
Floer’s parents divorced when she was nine months old, her mother remarried an Austrian Christian, and the family immigrated to Austria. She said that her mother and stepfather wanted to distance her from Judaism and raise her as a Christian, and thus prevented her from seeing her father until she returned to Sweden as an adult.
She added that her father was afraid to identify himself as a Jew, but did not deny his roots. After her first visit to Israel, 11 years ago, she said, her father was happy, went to a synagogue for the first time and purchased a mezuza for Floer. On his tombstone, there is even the symbol of the menorah.
“My grandparents lived in Vienna in 1938 when the Nazis marched through the streets of Vienna. They tried to flee, and no country would accept them, and Israel did not exist. And now the Nazis are marching in Gothenburg, and Israel does not accept me,” said Floer.