Nov 8, 2009

Convert? Moving to Israel? Look at This.

I'm not sure what to say about this Op/Ed from the Jerusalem Post today: The double lives of Jewish converts in Israel.

The gist of the Op/Ed is that there are converts living in Israel without healthcare, the ability to work, and who lack full acceptance as Jews in Israel, despite halakhic conversions. The situation works in such a way that people convert in the Diaspora, but once they head to Israel (legally, under the Law of Return), they're denied the basic rights that regular Jews are  under the same Law. Why? Because the Justice and Interior Ministers INSIST on reviewing all conversions, despite the 2005 ruling by the Supreme Court that converts should automatically been allowed in. Essentially, there are what the authors of the Op/Ed call "draconian citizenship tests." And then there's this:

Most recently, the Justice Ministry issued new protocols, already being implemented by the Jewish Agency, that demand an 18-month residency and a formal curriculum of study for converts abroad who want to come live here. These protocols demand that rabbis overseas ask certain specific questions of converts, that the process be reported in detail to the Israeli authorities and that converts adhere to strict bureaucratic procedures if they want their conversions to be accepted by Israeli civil authorities. In a word, civil bureaucrats are seeking to impose their will and standards on Diaspora Jewry, challenging the autonomy of Diaspora communities.
So what does a Diaspora Jewish convert do?

I'm guessing that if I'm considering Israel -- in any capacity, at any point in my life -- I should start looking at my options now. I should also probably talk to my beth din about this issue and see what their experience has been like. Are there really not that many converts who head to The Land post-conversion that this hasn't really come up before?

Talk about shocking. Appalling. Frustrating. Nod to @bethanyshondark for bringing the Op/Ed to my attention this morning.


Anonymous said...

It is a real shame and disgusting attempt by petty government clerks to hijack this issue.I am so frustrated living in Israel to read about this nonsense. I hope we can get this travesty ended. Sooner than later.

mekubal said...

Well... the 18mo residency has been a requirement for years. Aside from that if you converted in North America, and the B"D is recognized by Israel... don't worry about it. These things aren't meant to target you. They are meant to target, well I know its not PC to say, but people from third world countries who may be converting for ulterior motives.

Chaviva said...

@Anon I know, I know.

@Mekubal So what do converts who move to Israel do for work? How do they live w/o insurance and basic healthcare? That seems outrageous to me. It makes me wonder about making aliyah and whether it's feasible. Overall, most of the crackdowns on converts came with the huge influx of Russian immigrants back in the day. It bums me out that things haven't bounced back since then :\

Shimshonit said...

Converts who move to Israel work at whatever jobs their experience, education, and level of Hebrew allow them to. They are not subjected to any special restrictions regarding health care that I know of. I'm not sure what this article is supposed to be referring to, but mekubal may be right about potential third world converts. The Russians don't convert before coming here, and for those who wish to convert once they're here, there are options through the army, the rabbanut, and perhaps other venues.

Aliyah for an American convert is absolutely feasible--no worries, mate. But you can certainly bring up the issue with your beit din.

I notice there are lots of articles that get Diaspora Jews' knickers in a twist, and most of the time I don't know what they're talking about. Yes, it would be good to see the rabbanut cleaned up, but for those who have done their conversions in chu"l, there really shouldn't be so much hand-wringing about making aliyah since it doesn't affect chu"l converts.

Anonymous said...

Hi, all. I am not a regular blogger or poster, but lately I have been scouring the Internet for articles about conversion in Israel and related subjects, and I found this article here.
@Shimshonit (and anyone else who may be interested):
It doesn't affect the citizenship status of someone who converted in the Diaspora and already made aliyah, but since Rav Amar and the conversion courts here tightened their standards on what they consider to be acceptable diaspora conversions, it will affect the CHILDREN of such. My husband and I (both Orthodox converts from the U.S.) have had to get a letter from a rabbi, who wasn't on either of our betei din but was a member of the va'ad rabanim from which the rabbis of our batei din were drawn and just HAPPENS to be on the Rabbanut conversion courts' pre-existing short-list (of 50 rabbis) who were authorized by the Rabbanut itself to perform conversions in the Diaspora, certigying that yes, our conversions were legitimate and we are fully religiously observant, etc. We will also need letters from (prominent) people who know us NOW, testifying to the same facts. Like I said, this doesn't affect our citizenship status, but it could affect our children- that is, whether or not they will be allowed to marry, divorce and/or be burried in a Jewish cemetary in Israel. If we have to re-convert, even if it is just a formality (a symbolic dunk, to make the conversion courts and rabbanut more comfortable), that will mean our daughters can't marry Kohanim-even though, as far as anyone else is concerned, they were BORN Jewish. (Not that we are specifically shooting for Kohanic descendants, but we are praying not to have to limit their options in any way.)
Some more recent developments that may affect Orthodox converts and conversion candidates, whether they themselves are planning to make aliyah or not (can't find the links right now, but I credit and Un-Orthodox Jew (blogspot) for these):
The orgnaization called Eternal Jewish Family (EJF), which ostensibly exists for the purpose of encouraging the non-Jewish halves of intermarried couples to convert, and to do it the Orthodox way, has made strenuous efforts toward strengthening and unifying conversion stardards for all batei din and Orthodox rabbinical institutions affiliated withe Rabbinical Assembly of America (RCA). In large measure, it has worked. The rabbanut here in Israel has become more accepting of conversions performed under the auspices of the RCA, and they have xpanded their list of 'acceptable' conversion rabbis in the Diaspora. Great! Just great.

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Tropper, the (former) head of EJF, is a power broker, who has bribed his way into the hearts of certain haredi rabbis here, who have subsequently nullified the conversions of many on non-halachic grounds. Rav Tropper, himself, has also rejected conversion candidates and nullified conversions based on non-halachic grounds, chief among which are when the sponsoring rabbi or beit din in question are not on his own personal 'short-list' (cadre), or not in his pocket, God help us (refused to take bribes).
I know that sounds like blatant lashon hara, but such behavior was specifically prohibitted in the Torah (don't take or give bribes, because a bribe blinds the eyes of the judge). And, as a rav, community leader, and public figure, he is held to a higher standard of behavior.
On a similar note:
(Rav?) Tropper was also caught arranging secual encounters between a conversion candidate of his, and certain other people. I have read two conflicting reports- one states that he arranged these between the woman and several men in the community; the other is that it was between the woman and himself, with possible inclusion of Rav Tropper's wife.)
The RCA has publicly condemned his behavior (and rightly so, since what he has done is a chilul Hashem), and Rav Tropper has resigned from his position at the head of EJF. Whether he continues to INFLUENCE the activities of the EJF remains to be seen...
In case you are wondering what this has to do with getting conversions accepted in Israel, please note that Tropper has been the lynchpin, so to speak, in drawing the Rabbanut and its conversion courts closer to the RCA. Now that his immoral acts have become public knowledge, there is the possibility that it will affect the association between the Rabbanut and the RCA egatively, as it regards converts and conversion- and as a convert and a Torah-loving Jew, my first and most passionate reaction is to curse his name, because it gives a bad name to converts, conversion rabbis and those who support them.
My other reaction is to pray for the coming of Mashiach, and for the universal acceptance of the nascent Sanhedrin- two institutions which would have the authority to overrule the Rabbanut...

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