Identity, Israel, Politics, Religion

New Jews, stay away!

Converts in the diaspora are still having trouble getting citizenship in Israel. We’ve been seeing this going on for years, of course, but every time the soup simmers down, someone throws in a new bone and turns up the flame.
Seems that the Interior Ministry has changed the rules again. Of course, the new rules haven’t actually been approved, but that hasn’t stopped the normally rule-bound Israelis (can you detect the sarcasm? Okay) from employing them.

Critics say the new rules are too stringent and are disenfranchising Diaspora Jewish communities that approve the conversions, ultimately making it harder than ever for converts from the Diaspora to immigrate to Israel. Supporters say the new rules are meant to separate genuine converts from those interested in little more than a quick path to Israeli citizenship.

Yes, of course. It has nothing to do with the battle between certain of the power-holding Orthodox and everyone else.

According to the new regulations — they have not been approved officially but already are being employed, according to advocates who deal with converts — converts to Judaism from the Diaspora must remain for at least nine months before and after their conversions in the community where they converted before they can immigrate to Israel.
The rules also mandate 350 hours of classes and hands-on practice for converts in the Diaspora (modeled on standards set in Israel for its official conversion institute) and bar any convert who has a non-Jewish relative living in Israel and anyone whose stay in Israel was previously deemed illegal for any period of time.

My favorite part is that if you have a non-Jewish relative living in Israel you aren’t eligible to be Jewish. WTF? Yes, I’m aware that there are foreign workers living in Israel who might want to -God forbid- become Israeli. And we all know that OF COURSE there could only be ulterior motives.
Um, they DO realize that this is counter to halakhah, right?

13 thoughts on “New Jews, stay away!

  1. Of course they do. But they will do anything to protect halakhah and that includes dragging every prospective, current and future convert through the mudd to do it. Converts aren’t really people, after all? Forget innocent til proven guilty, this is guilty til proven innocent. The modus operandi is to assume that converts are always converting for ulterior motives.
    Take a look at my piece, “350 Hours of Oppression”

  2. And what about the ruling from the Israeli supreme court a number of years ago that said that someone who converts in any diaspora community – through any of the Jewish movements – is considered eligible for aliyah? Has that been overturned? I find it difficult to believe that this new policy is even in accord with Israeli law.

  3. Rebecca, there’s law according to the “secular” institutions in Israel, like the court, and then there’s the rabbinate. The latter has overturned, overruled, and/or ignored those rules that they see unfit. And that includes laws for making aliyah, who is a Jew, etc. It seems like every month or two there’s another story about who is/isn’t “Jewish enough” to make aliyah, who’s conversion is/isn’t eligible to be counted as a Jew in Israel.

  4. Instead of the zero-sum battle that is going on between the Heredi-controlled Rabbinate and the secular judicial system (which, frankly, isn’t qualified to determine such matters on its own)…Israel should adopt something along the lines of the Gavison-Medan Covenant…

  5. It’s NOT Jewish supremacy (whatever that might mean) it’s hareidi hegemony, which is something quite different.
    What a great remark. Let’s analyze it…
    It’s NOT Jewish supremacy (whatever that might mean)
    Right, not all Jews think alike, so “Jewish supremacy” is a misnomer, because it doesn’t reflect the diverse views within the Jewish people. But you just couldn’t leave well enough alone. Not wanting to be a target yourself, you had to deflect this racist sentiment to “the other”…
    it’s hareidi hegemony
    Clearly, because the haredis are all like one unit – they think collectively and have no divisions or separations in their ranks, like cattle.
    which is something quite different
    In other words, don’t group us “normal” Jews with those penguin lunatics. “They” are the REAL problem.
    Jewish supremacy? Haredi hegemony?
    This is senseless rhetorical antagonism.
    Rabbinate politics are not always a point of Jewish pride, and Israeli bureaucracy is legendary, but this is no excuse for rabid venom. These are not simple issues, and they deserve reasoned debate and discussion.
    I can understand those of you who couldn’t care less if Israel is a Jewish state, and live as a post-identity “world citizen”.
    For those who still believe there is a specific, unique Jewish identity and mission – that being a Jew is not a set of ideas and ideals in action, but a spiritual state of being – and that we can’t divorce this extraordinary spiritual foundation from the intellectual components in the Jewish faith, certainly you can see problems with conversions being performed not in accordance with Jewish law.
    With this, I’m not defending the Rabbinate. I have not seen them approach this issue with a wisdom that unifies, choosing instead a severely defensive posture that creates more division, controversy and anarchy. I imagine they are under a lot of pressure to defend what they feel is ever increasing penetration of their communities by unwelcome forces, but this is not an excuse for ineffective policy in such a critical area. It seems that in the Rabbinate, as in other positions of Jewish authority in Israel and the Diaspora, politics has replaced merit.
    Returning back to the subject, we Jews have taken in converts for thousands of years. There is a way to do this – it’s not easy and it’s not designed to be. Yet, too many converts have converted through this process for anyone to claim that it’s unworkable, unfair or unwelcoming. Tough beans. If you want to be a Jew, you’ll stick with it, and tens of thousands do.
    The state of affairs in the Rabbinate regarding conversion is an aggravating issue, and it’s not merely an issue in Israel. Even in some diaspora orthodox and chassidic communities, the conversion process often moves at a stupefying glacial pace with seemingly no basis for the delays. That’s just Jews being Jews; it’s the same butting of heads everywhere!
    Still, while I recognize the need for positive change to address these problems, I prefer the system that exists now, which errs (if not by intent, then in execution) on the side of withholding conversion to a system where conversions are handed out like Kaballah center bracelets.

  6. @Purpleman:
    There is a way to do this – it’s not easy and it’s not designed to be.
    actually it is easy, and it’s designed to be. However, it’s been made difficult by accretions because of various social factors. But halakhically, there’s not much to it. Really.
    As for hareidi hegemony, what I meant was not that all hareidim think alike, but rather that in fact there is a group of hareidim (not all, mind you) who are involved in a particular kind of politics in the Israeli state, and that politics is one which is confusing one particular set of interpretations and stringencies with all of jewish law, and then attempting to make this the law of the Israeli state.

  7. But halakhically, there’s not much to it. Really.
    You’re right. Just look at us Jews – all we had to do was say “na’aseh v’nishma”. However, it’s one thing to say you want to be a Jew and another to take on Shabbos and Kashrus overnight, with no preparation and growing pains. If anything, the extended period of learning and communal integration gives the convert a plethora of opportunities to abort the process because it’s just not who they are.
    I know a couple who converted in their 40s. After about a year and a half, they were finally ready for mikvah. There were two mikvahs, one for men and another for women. The man, Yaakov, told me that when he went in, one of the Rabbis told him, look Yaakov, what is all this nonsense. Let’s go to McDonalds and grab a big juicy hamburger. Yaakov told him to go fish. Another Rabbi told him, look what you’re about to give up! You don’t have to keep Shabbos. You can eat whatever you want. No one is persecuting you. You insane to want to be a Jew! Put your pants back on and let’s go get that burger. Yaakov refused. Finally the third Rabbi comes into the room, closes the door, a grave look on his face. He walks up to Yaakov and says, listen, I just came from the women’s mikvah. Your wife… she didn’t go through with it.
    When he was telling this story, Yaakov went through his whole thought process… if they told me this, they probably told my wife the same thing. I knew if my wife heard that, she would say to hell with my husband, I didn’t come all this way to stop now!
    He jumped in.
    L’haim, l’haim, Yaakov Ephraim!

  8. It’s not the Haredim: it’s the ministry of Interior and the not-at-all-religious head of the corrupt immigration authority who detains kids in parks Yaakov Ganot.
    This is not the Rabbinate, it is the secular government of ISrael which is tainted with racist ideas of what it means to be Jewish (i.e. converts are bad) and a realization that according to these ideas converts would taint the Jewish demographic. This is not the rabbinate. This is the actual government.

  9. And Purple Man, that’s a horrible story, and the rabbis who did it should rot in hell for all eternity.

  10. Let us clarify a few things. In March 2005 Israel’s High Court struck down the requirement that converts be made to wait a year before making Aliyah. Nobody would force a waiting period of a year to keep Shabbat or Kashrut. So how can there be a demand that a Jew must wait a year in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of Yeshuv HaAretz?
    The Interior Ministry, and the justice Ministry, did not like this ruling. Basically they said: OK the court said a one year waiting period is illegal but the court said nothing about 364 days. So as not to look silly they settled on 9 months.
    The 350 hour rule has no basis in law, Law, morality, or reality. It is the number of hours in the curriculum of the so-called Joint Institute here in Israel. It is an effort to impose a standard set by bureaucrats in Israel on local Batei Din the world over thus denying local rabbis their autonomy.
    It discriminates against all of the denominations. The Orthodox, for a change, suffer as much-maybe more-under these new rules (which drastically limit which Orthodox rabbis will be acceptable).
    It is not exactly so, as states in the post, that one with non-Jewish relatives in Israel could not make Aliyah.
    The document states that if their are 3d generation “Jews,” that is to say, for example a Jewish grandfather, the non-Jewish children, and the non-Jewish grandchildren, all of whom made Aliyah under the Law of Return – they have status. Should a great grandchild, living, lets say, in Argentina, wish to convert to Judaism, make Aliyah, and thus reunite with his family-he would be denied.
    If you have spent time illegally in Israel-you become ineligible. Now this seems rational but here is the reality:
    Helga marries and Israeli Jew in a civil ceremony and moves Israel. She gives birth to a child. She is an official resident of Israel with a Teudat Zehut number (an A5 visa). The couple then breaks up. Helga is now ordered to leave the country within a month, with, or w/o the daughter. She loses the A5. She appeals the decision to the Interior Ministry. It takes her 5 months to get an appointment. But she is now illegal. She is denied her appeal and goes back to Europe where she completes her conversion. She remains in Europe, active in Jewish life, for 2 years and then makes application for Aliyah. She is refused because she has lived in Israel illegally (the fault of the 5 months it took to get an appointment with the Interior Ministry).
    Amd if all of this sounds bad-converts who are people of color almost always have their applications “under investigation” which will last forever, unless there are legal, or other serious pressure brought upon the IM.
    Far too many of the IM bureaucrats are a legacy of the many years Shas controlled the Interior Ministry and the effects are still very strong today.
    Take a look at my blog over at the Jerusalem Post:

  11. R. Sacks, I beg to differ. I think that in this case it’s plain old racism. A migrant worker from China could show up dressed like Rav Ovadia and versed in Yalkut Yosef from beginning to end, and Yaakov Ganot would deport him, his Jewish wife, his children and his mother-in-law.

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