Monday, May 19, 2008

Does converting Russians give them Jewish/Israeli identity?

The justification for Rav Druckman's conversion factory is twofold. 1) it fulfills the Zionist dream of developing Israel as well as redeeming the offspring of Jews - even though they are not halachic Jews. 2) It is to reduce strains in the society by making it more uniformly Jewish. Therefore the debate of conversion of the 300,000 non-Jewish Russian immigrants ultimately hinges on whether aliya/conversion produces a Jewish identity and/or Israeli identity. The following article raises questions about the validity of that assumption. If conversion by quota does not produce the desired results - there can be no justification for searching out halachic leniences - even according to the Religious Zionists.

Study finds Israelis more detached

Jerusalem Post May 19, 2008

The proportion of Jewish Israelis who feel "a part of" the state has reached new lows, with 40 percent of the adult population reporting a sense of detachment, and nearly half of the younger generation saying they don't identify with their country and its problems, according to a study released this week.

The steepest decline in connectedness or belonging took place among haredim: from 85% in 2003 to only 42% in 2008, the study by the Israel Democracy Institute's Guttman Center said.

Also worrisome was the change among immigrants from the former Soviet Union, with only 58% of them now feeling a connection to the state and its problems, down from 84% in 2004.

The survey further reported a steady decline in the rate of Jewish Israelis who want to remain in the country, with 70% of adults and 63% of young Israelis eager to stay. The downward trend was attributed to globalization processes affecting the entire world and the particular challenges faced by modern-day Israel.

Despite the discouraging results, the study did offer a hint of optimism. While FSU immigrants may be less interested in Israel and its problems than in 2004, they are still prepared to fight for the country.

According to the report, this is especially true of immigrants 40 years and older, who have never served in the IDF. [...]


  1. This report is not a surprise. As the nature of Israeli society because increasingly bereft of Halacha as a guidepost, religiously oriented Jews surely feel less connected.

    Russian Christian immigrants simply have no connection to the country geographically, halachicly, religiously, or hashkaficly.

    Because Israel is a better a life than Russia, during their "honeymoon" their feelings of connection were strong. However, upon understanding the quasi-Apartiheid nature of Israeli society and knowing that they can't really be part of the Jewish side of it, their feelings of connection diminish.

    The reason I say they can't be a part of the Jewish side of it because they know that even if they convert (Druckman style) they are still not part of the majority Jewish culture (because they still practice their Christianity by and large), so even when afforded full rights and privileges they are still outside of the culturally and religiously Jewish mainstream.

  2. This is from ICEJ's website:

    That special Finnish treatment:

    I t is a once-in-a-lifetime journey
    that can drain the hardiest
    of travelers. Months of paperwork
    and phone calls. Sleepless
    nights. Last-minute farewells. Minds race and hearts skip. But for forty-one Russian Jews, the long and arduous voyage recently endedwith a short six-hour flight to the land of Israel. Thanks to the diligent efforts put in by ICEJ-Finland and the affiliated Finnish Exodus Committee, the journey was made a lot easier for this latest flight of Russia olim.
    Working for years in cooperation
    with the Jewish Agency, the leadership and volunteer network from our Finnish branch have been scouring the vast expanse of the former Soviet Union for Jewish families and communities that
    are interested in making the move to Israel. Finnish Christians then open their homes to Russian Jews in transit from St.Petersburg to Israel via Helsinki. It is a
    route traversed by some 16,000 Jewish immigrants so far under the sponsorship of ICEJ-Finland.
    This most recent flight in late
    March was the 14th chartered planeload of Jews sponsored by ICEJ-Finland – yet the first departing out of Helsinki itself.
    Altogether, the ICEJ and its national branches have financed a total of 53 aliyah flights since the mass Soviet Jewish exodus began in 1989.

    Over the years, Jewish families have expressed extra gratitude for the special treatment they receive during their brief stay inside Finland, where local Christians
    warmly open up their homes for 3
    or 4 days of respite for the weary travelers. While some families enjoy local food and go sightseeing, others relax in spas
    or try new winter sports.
    This latest group hailed from all
    over Russia and included couples in their eighties down to months-old infants.

    Many of the Jewish guests were overwhelmed by the love and care showed by the Finnish Christians and cherished the restful atmosphere they provided.
    Tania, from Archangelsk, said that
    the hospitality was desperately needed.
    “The immigration process is both physically and psychologically stressful. The reception we received from Christians in
    Finland was so important and appreciated by us”, she said.
    Valerie, from St Petersburg, was
    thrilled by the tranquil country house his family stayed in, astonished that his hosts
    did not even lock their doors at night.

    ICEJ-Finland sponsors 14th flight of Russian Jews
    By Lena Kachinski
    Many of the elderly in the group
    already have relatives in Israel, including grandchildren they have yet to meet, motivating them to leave behind their old
    lives. Andrei, the father of a young family, said his burden to go to Israel came from above.
    “I don’t expect a better standard of living in Israel; in fact, it might get worse before we can learn Hebrew and find our place in a new society. But I believe God
    is leading us there, and we are excited to go.”
    The stay in Finland was brief but
    meaningful. New friendships were quickly forged, leading to tearful hugs and farewells, and promises to stay in touch and meet again one day in the Promised Land.
    Once on Israeli soil, a mother
    climbed down from the plane, took a
    deep breath and set her foot down in her new home. In her arms was a newborn that will soon take his first steps in the land of Israel.
    With reporting from Helsinki by Dr.
    Ulla Järvilehto, chairperson of ICEJ-Finland and the Finnish Exodus Committee.

    The ICEJ has the unprecedented opportunity to take this dramatic portrayal of God’s faithfulness
    to the Jewish people down through
    the ages to audiences in Israel and around the world. Over 50 000 Israelis have already seen The Covenant in their native Hebrew
    while thousands more will be introduced to the groundbreaking biblical drama for the first time during 2006. Now The Covenant is
    reaching out with the message of Israel to the nations. We need urgent funding to underwrite
    staging 6 shows at the Azusa Centennial Celebrations
    in Los Angeles this April, before embarking on a demanding 23-city European Summer Tour. We are also in urgent need of raising
    subsidies to enable Israeli schoolchildren and soldiers to see the story of their people for free
    during the 2006 tour of Israel this fall. One of the finest therapeutic facilities for the disabled in Israel, the Ilan Sports Center
    in Tel Aviv is undergoing a major renovation and expansion of its facilities. The ICEJ
    has been involved with Ilan for a number of years and has sponsored the training of Yitzhak Mamistalov, the wheelchair-bound Israeli Paralympic 100m freestyle champion. The heart of the center’s activity
    is their Olympic size Swimming Pool, where Yitzhak trains and which is in the process of
    being expanded. The ICEJ would like to tell Ilan that Christians will pay for it. For nearly two decades the ICEJ has been
    active in bringing the Jewish people back to Israel from the four corners of the earth. Today our efforts continue to help Jews from
    the former Soviet Union, America, Germany,France, and other nations return home. With the rising climate of anti-Semitism in Europe
    and across the world, the need to assist aliyah has never been more urgent. For new immigrants, arriving in Israel is only
    the first step. The ICEJ has an active Aliyah office in St Petersburg, Russia, and a team of
    Hebrew speaking workers in Israel dedicatedto help absorb some of the financial and social shocks that face new citizens long after they come.


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