Monday, May 25, 2015

Nativ - an Israel army program - provides an easier road to conversion

Times of Israel    Nativ [Jewish Identity Education]   is the army’s gateway to conversion. It’s Judaism and Zionism 101, taught by civilian and army instructors on a grassy campus, providing participants with reasonable food in a coed setting on the army’s dime. The seven-week course, even if one does not continue toward the conversion seminars that follow, counts toward time served. In short, most soldiers know that if they are entitled to the course, they might as well go.

It is – housed under the roof of the IDF, an organization that is by definition kosher and Sabbath observant – the only path in Israeli society that manages to skirt most of the minefields surrounding the question of who is a Jew. [...]

Nativ was founded in 2001, the brainchild of reserves general Elazar Stern, who, as chief education officer and head of IDF manpower, from 1999 to 2008, left an indelible mark on the military – pioneering the army’s organized trips to the Nazi death camps, introducing a blood marrow donor station at the IDF’s induction center, and, among many other initiatives, launching a rewrite of the army’s code of ethics. [...]

The process is not perfect. From the ultra-Orthodox perspective it is far too lenient. It does not even span an entire calendar year – in fact it could be completed in the period between the end of the Sukkot and the start of Passover – and the devotion of each and every convert to full compliance with the commandments has been questioned.

Secular Israelis have been outraged as well. In 2014, Noam Cohen, a newly discharged soldier, told Channel 10 that she was disqualified from the conversion track in the army because she lives on a kibbutz. It did not matter that her hometown of Kibbutz Yifat has a synagogue, or that there is a religious family living on the kibbutz, or that her father was a veteran of Sayeret Matkal, or that there is a plaque drilled into the synagogue wall with the names of 22 fallen Israeli soldiers from the kibbutz: the fact of her living on a secular kibbutz was grounds for disqualification, she said.[...]

Roughly 3,000 soldiers opt to start the Nativ courses every year. The first seven weeks are a bit like college. The classes are taught by religious, secular, Reform and Conservative teachers. The dorms and classrooms are sprinkled with students from all over the world – participants referred to it as “the Mondial” or World Cup of soccer – but the clear majority are from Russian-speaking homes. In a history class I sat in on, addressing the Roman rule over Judea, there were 20 students from former Soviet Union states and two from the US, both of whom were Jewish but eligible for the course as new immigrants. One, a college graduate from New Rochelle, New York, was the most active participant in class. The other doodled impressively. The army allowed access to three of the Russian-speaking students.[....]

No comments :

Post a Comment

please use either your real name or a pseudonym.