Jun 14, 2011

News for Orthodox Converts!

Okay folks, huge, huge news just passed on to me. I'm pulling the text from eJewishPhilanthropy, because it's up there already. But, well, this is just gigantic, amazing news for converts!

Shas and Jewish Agency Reach Agreement on Orthodox Conversion Aliyah 
via Dan Brown
In a letter dated yesterday, the Interior Ministry of the State of Israel notified the Knesset of a change of policy as to procedures for granting Oleh status to Orthodox converts. Instead of turning to the Chief Rabbinate for eligibility approval, it will now turn to the Jewish Agency for Israel.
According to sources close to the issue, Chief Rabbi Amar supports the move which also had to gain approval of [Shas] Interior Minister Eli Yishai.
This agreement represents the first real compromise between the Shas led Interior Ministry and Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky on a question of Jewish identity.
Many conversion questions are up in the air and the only forum actually dealing with the issue is the conversion roundtable chaired by Sharansky. This is only one of many issues, but it represents the first real agreement to come from the process.


Sean M. Teaford said...

This is wonderful news! I hope that this marks a huge increase in those making Aliyah.

It is a long application process for converts but one that can be managed if you are willing to work for it (I speak from experience).

Next month in Jerusalem!

KosherAcademic said...

I am not familiar with the Jewish Agency. Even after I explored their website a bit, I'm not sure where they stand hashgafically. Will you expand, Chavi? Todah!

DLP said...


You won't find anything about the hashkafa of the Jewish Agency -- in Hebrew known simply as the "Sochnut" -- because they're not a religious organization per se. Their mandate is to get Jews move to Israel, help them settle and to provide Israel education to Diaspora communities. (They do this by sending emissaries to cities all over the world.) You can learn more about the Jewish Agency by checking out their site: http://www.jafi.org.il/JewishAgency/English/Home/

I'm hopeful this is a development that will help make the aliya process smoother/less painful for Orthodox converts.

DLP said...

You won't find anything about the Jewish Agency's (in Hebrew, referred to as "ha-Sochnut") hashkafa because they're not a religious organization. Their mandate is to educate Diaspora Jews about Israel (which they do by sending emissaries to cities throughout the world), help them move and help them settle.

I believe this follows an older model of how things used to be done before the Charedi establishment turned the system on its head.

the rabbi's wife said...

This is great news. One step closer to having you and Evan as neighbors! Shevy wants to have you over again, as she has told me each morning since you were here.

When we made Aliyah almost 4 (!) years ago our shaliach told us that the JA was no longer going to be in charge of North American Aliyah, that it was all going to go through NBN. Did that not happen?

Hadassa said...

I would imagine that the Chief Rabbinate will still do its own checks when olim or the children of olim register to marry. Chareidi courts do their own checks. Having the Jewish Agency handling oleh status for converts will speed up the aliya process, but may only postpone dealing with the rabbinate/chareidi court. Certain schools, possibly not just hareidi schools, will also not accept the judgment of the JA.
rabbi's wife, two points: 1) The JA still deals with olim, among them converts, from places that NBN doesn't handle. 2) It could be that NBN hasn't taken over absolutely everything that the JA had been doing with North American olim.
Chaviva, we'd love to have you for neighbors too!

DLP said...

The JTA had a more complete story:

Jewish Agency gains power to approve Orthodox converts for aliyah
June 15, 2011

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- The Jewish Agency for Israel will now be responsible for approving the eligibility of Orthodox converts for aliyah.

Israel's Interior Ministry announced the change in a letter Tuesday to the Knesset. The ministry, which approves candidates for aliyah under the Law of Return, had been relying on Israel's Orthodox-dominated Chief Rabbinate to determine the legitimacy of an Orthodox conversion in the Diaspora.

In cases where the Jewish Agency cannot verify the authenticity of an Orthodox conversion, the ministry will turn to the Chief Rabbinate, according to the letter written by Amnon Ben-Ami, director of the Population, Immigration and Border Authority in the Interior Ministry.

The decision comes following a lawsuit filed last month in Israel's Supreme Court against the Interior Ministry demanding that it recognize Orthodox conversions performed abroad for the purposes of aliyah.

The Jerusalem-based ITIM, the Jewish Life Information Center, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Tomas Dohlan, a Canadian man who completed an Orthodox conversion in February 2010 and was denied Israeli citizenship. Dohlan, his wife and four children arrived in Israel four months ago. Dohlan's wife is an Israeli citizen.

The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that individuals who underwent conversions in "recognized" communities around the world would be eligible for aliyah under the Law of Return. However, the Interior Ministry consults with Israel’s Chief Rabbinate to determine which Orthodox communities are “recognized.”

When a convert presents an aliyah application, the ministry relies on the leadership of the denominations to determine eligibility. The Conservative and Reform communities are centralized and vouch for their converts.

Since Orthodox Judaism does not have a centralized leadership, the ministry had determined that Israel’s chief rabbi is the leader of Orthodoxy around the world. The Chief Rabbinate currently recognizes conversions performed by about 50 of the more than Orthodox rabbis in North America.

"This new policy is a victory for the Jewish people and Zionism," Rabbi Seth Farber, director of ITIM, told JTA. "It re-emphasizes the strong relationship between Diaspora Jewish communities and the State of Israel, and quiets those critics who seek to distance Israel from the Jewish people.

"We look forward to the new policy being implemented immediately, and to the resolution of the plight of converts who have turned to ITIM, who are being denied their rights."

Farber told The Jerusalem Post that his organization will not withdraw its lawsuit from the Supreme Court until it sees how the new system is implemented.

Batya said...

G-d willng good for Jews and Israel

Sophia said...

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa that's fantastic!!!!!! :DDDDDD Baruch Hashem!!!

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