Monday, September 8, 2008

Shavei Israel II - Exploiting Law of Return Loophole

Guest Post: Recipients and Publicity's comment to "Shavei Israel - Proselytizing or discovering Jews?...":
Exploiting the loophole in Israel's Law of Return for not having "giyur kehalacha" in it.

It was interesting that in the article about the Polish "hidden Jews" published in the latest Jewish Press, which is really just a press release from Shavei Israel that the JP, as is their style, has published, there is not a single word about Halacha and geirus. Not even the broader generalized terminology of "Jewish law" and "conversions" yet when one clicks on to the Shavei Israel website there are many links about that all the work they do is in accordance with the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and that they facilitate real conversions.

This is often the two-facedness, in other words hypocrisy (often self-created) of many Israeli governmental, kiruv and outreach type organizations. To win friends and influence people -- and of course to set the ground for major fund raising appeals with the unsuspecting Jewish public being softened up by these kind of media campaigns, and after all, Michael Freund head of Shavei Israel is described on their website as "Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister's Office under Benjamin Netanyahu" so he knows the whole PR game and how even press releases that pose as "articles' can be used as self-created "endorsementa" allowing for outright proselytising.

When the Holocaust destroyed Europe's Jewish centers, the survivors who came to Israel were all Halachik Jews. When Arab nationalism and antisemitism made life in Islamic lands impossible for Jews forcing them to come to Israel, they were 100% Halachic Jews. But then funny things started to happen. The fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of antisemitism brought forth people who wanted to take advantage of the well-established Israeli state. Everyone knew that the Jews of the USSR had non-Jewish relatives. The State of Israel and its secular elites, in a an ongoing fit and manifestation of POST-Zionism allowed the forbidden by opening the gates to people who should have been denied entry for the simplest of reasons, they did not qualify by the standards of Israel's own key 1950 Law of Return that could and should have easily excluded questionably Jewish Russians, Poles, Chinese, Indians and whatnot because they did not meet even Ben Gurion's original criteria for Israeli citizenship based on core classical Jewish identity.

The fatal loophole in the law that was compromised, was that the Law of Return, while talking of Jewish matrilineal descent, did not have in it the qualifying proviso of "giyur kehalacha" a "convert according to Halacha"!

And so the crack was opened and began a flood-gate. In poured the Russians, Falashas, so-called "Anusim", and now Shavei Israel and others like them take further advantage in the name of "Zionism" and "Judaism" and on their website even "conversion" but it will not be long before even these games will be dropped and anyone who thinks they are "Jewish" will decide they have the "right" to immigrate to Israel.

For the record, it was none other than the last Lubavitcher Rebbe who waged the strongest and longest political war to get the Israeli government to add the "giyur kehalacha" addendum as part of religious party's pre-conditions for joining the Shamir government. The uproar and counter-attacks against Chabad were furious, but the religious party's did not succeed, either by not insisting enough or being rejected, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe backed off at that time. Pity.


  1. recipients and publicity said...

    "Exploiting the loophole in Israel's Law of Return for not having "giyur kehalacha" in it."

    There are so many irrelevant and unrelated issues being brought up and connected in this post I am not quite sure where to start. I think that the best way is to address the nuances and history of law of return and how this is completely irrelevant to Shalvei's activities.

    Recipients sighted the Lubavitcher Rebbe's 1988 proposal to the then prime minister Yitzchak Shamir.The law of return which had been intact since the 1950's stipulated that any individual who had Jewish lineage both maternal and paternally as well as converts had the automatic right to Israeli citizenship. All of this was handled as it is today through the ministry of the interior.

    The only issue that was left completely undefined was the question of what is a convert. In practice however the ministry of the interior only accepted applicants who had converted through an Orthodox beit din. This however came to an end in 1987. A candidate for immigration from the US (I forgot what her name was) who had converted reform took the government to court when her application was rejected. The case which made it to the high court ruled in her favor. This opened the door to immigration for individuals who had converted reform or conservative. It also jump started the intense debate over the government recognized Orthodox monopoly over personal status matters in this country.

    This is where the Lubavitcher Rebbe stepped in. He requested that Shamir should submit a bill to the knesset of amendment to the law of return that it should reflect halachic parameters. The issue met with such opposition from both within Israel and abroad that the prime minister dropped the whole thing.

    None of this however is remotely connected with Shalvei yisrael's activities. They work with the "Orthodox" Israeli rabbinute. The reason why they ommited mentioning this in the JPost article is that the subject was irrelevant. The hidden Jews of Poland are not Anusim nor are they a lost tribe. Heck nobody at this point is even discussing immigration for these people. This is an issue of kiruv. What makes Polish Jewry unique as a community is that most of them until recently have been living in fear and suppressing their Jewish identity or they do not relate to it. Many of them are just finding out now that they are Jewish because it was not told to them by their parents. Nonetheless they can probably document their authenticity as well as any Jew from the US who is not Frum.

    You also use the term "so called anusim". This is a reflection of ignorance. The anusim have been known about and documented for decades now. In fact there is a rather large concentration of them in the south western United States among the Mexican Ethnics there.

    Ethiopian Jewry are also very well documented with rabbanim paskening that they are Jewish or that they are almost sure that they are Jewish. For the life of me I have no idea what is trying to accomplish with his postings.

  2. It should be noted that Shalvei Israel, Micheal Freund gets the majority of its funding not from Evangelical Christian sources and not from Jewish sources.

    Evangelical Christians have a vested interest in redefining "who is a Jew" to suit their goals which are definitely NOT the same goals as either Zionism or the Jewish people.

  3. For once I agree with Jersey girl's attitude here.

    But Bartley, while I admit that mmy post was somewhat far-reaching, it does make a very good point, that in spite of Shavei Israel's posturing and to be blunt, MANIPULATION of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate's rqeuirements for conversions, if you just take a hard cold look at what Shavei Israel is up to, and the JP article was a good example, they are searching high and low for ANY people with the remotest connections to the Jewish people, and they will work with people that halacha is clear are pure gentiles, meshumadim and outright Christians who do not have have a Jewish mother, for a few generations, and may even have been Catholics for a long time and in fact don't even want to "come back" to the Jewish people and Zion so that to get involved in "kiruv-like" activities to haul these peopele in that is a very controversial, and probably Halachically forbidden, activity.

    Your contention that Shavei Israel is no different to a kiruv operation is wrong because they are working with the goal to reach people who THEY know will often times be gentiles and will require conversions, which is not and should not be the classical definition of "kiruv" which means reaching out to non-observant Jews and trying to mekarev them.

    If you had read what I have written in some aralier posts about Kiruv that Dr. Eidensohn kindly published, you will see that what Shavei Israel is doing is like the current Reform Judaism effort of "Keruv" to non-Jews and to non-Jewish partners of Jews in the hope of bringing into the Jewish people and not even trying to convert them. This is the achiles heal of the EJF/R. Leib Tropper/Tom Kaplan effort in spite of its counter-claims, and that is that in effect Shavei Israel, the Reform movement and even EJF are promoting a kind of evangelical Judaism that seeks to proseltyze people into becoming Jews when they are neither asking for it nor need it.

  4. Bartley Kulp wrote:
    Ethiopian Jewry are also very well documented with rabbanim paskening that they are Jewish or that they are almost sure that they are Jewish. For the life of me I have no idea what is trying to accomplish with his postings.
    There are some rabbanim such as R' Ovadiah Yosef who view them as Jewish or almost sure that they are Jewish.
    The majority view - which includes Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Eliashiv etc view them at most a sofek. They do not advocate proselytizing except in a situation where they are likely to intermarry with Jews- such as those who have come to Israel. None of the major poskim have advocated traveling around the world looking for "hidden" Jews to convert.


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