Friday, April 25, 2008

"One day they told me I'm no longer Jewish"

This article in Haaretz illustrates the dangers of a lenient [or sloppy] attitude towards Jewish status. The nightmare for someone who immigrated with the understanding that if a government official [or rabbi outside of Israel] said she was Jewish - she was secure in her status as a Jew.

About a year and a half ago, Svetlana Zakolodkin and her daughter Anastasia were summoned to the Interior Ministry's Population Registrar and told that as far as the state was concerned, they were no longer Jewish.

Clerk Mila Moskowitz confiscated their identity cards and said they would not be getting new ones unless they signed a request to change their status to non-Jewish, they said. She gave them new cards, in which the religion and nationality boxes were left empty.

Moskowitz told them that if they failed to prove they were Jewish, their citizenship would be revoked. Anastasia's university scholarship, which she received as a new immigrant, was canceled.


  1. It seems as though Svetlana's greater concern here is one of the benefits of her citizenship rather than Jewishness.

    Are we really supposed to feel sad for her that her free education, paid for by the Jewish people, is in jeopardy due to the phony conversion she went through just to obtain it?

    Good decision on the part of the Interior Ministry (never thought I'd put something like that in writing!).

  2. Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad commented, "In general, a request to change the listed religion and nationality is made after it has been proved unequivocally that the initial registration was based on false documents."

    Anyone who has been watching the news from Israel lately is aware of a shocking increase in anti Semitic incidents. It seems as though the descendants of the same European thugs who brought us the pogroms and the Shoah have somehow found their way to Israel.

    They even brought a crematorium!!

    Should we pity a person who falsified documents to take advantage of the Jewish people and who was most likely discovered because of missionary activity (which is illegal in Israel) or because a relative committed a hate crime against Jews?

    I don't think so.

  3. The 'lenient or sloppy' part seems to me to be that a random clerk can revoke citizenship based on nothing more than a suspicion. The story is lacking crucial facts, but in general I think that once citizenship is granted it should only be taken away in extreme cases.

    Please note that as far as I am concerned, Israeli citizenship and Jewishness are distinct entities. The law of the return agrees with me - it explicitly allows immigration of non-Jews and their immediate acceptance as citizens as long as they are either descended from a halachic Jew (including the male line) or (civilly) married to a halachic Jew.

    This woman may not be Jewish, but IMO she should be considered an Israeli citizen, at least based on the information provided in the article.

  4. Responding to the previous comments:

    Re: Anonymous - nowhere in the article is there any mention that Svetlana Zakolodkin converted.

    Re: Larry Lennhoff - I agree that the facts presented in the article are unclear.

    Point of clarification regarding your paraphrasing of the Law of Return.

    The exact language of the relevant section of the Law follows:

    "Rights of members of family

    4A. (a) The rights of a Jew under this Law and the rights of an oleh under the Nationality Law, 5712-1952***, as well as the rights of an oleh under any other enactment, are also vested in a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew, except for a person who has been a Jew and has voluntarily changed his religion.

    (b) It shall be immaterial whether or not a Jew by whose right a right under subsection (a) is claimed is still alive and whether or not he has immigrated to Israel."

    [my emphasis added]

    For more on this and other issues of religion and state in Israel, please visit:

    Joel Katz

  5. Svetlana Zakolodkin claimed when she emigrated that her grandmother was Jewish but she never provided documentation to support that.

    She cannot prove that ANYONE in her family is Jewish.

    The Israeli gov't will accept civil records that link a person to someone who was a member of a Jewish community as proof of Jewish status.

    The gov't has also accepted the testimony of witnesses for establishing Jewish status.

    Should Israel continue to give benefits to people who are not eligible to remain in Israel under the Law of Return, especially in the wake of recent incidents of anti Semitism perpetrated by immigrants from the FSU?



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