Better Make Aliyah Now if you Only Have One Jewish Grandparent

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Israel’s Law of Return, as it presently stands states that to the extent you have one Jewish grandparent, you are eligible to immigrate to Israel. The reasoning behind that was that during WW II, the Nazis considered those with Jewish grandparents as individuals possessing enough Jewish blood to be worthy of extermination.

Just this week, the introduction of a controversial new bill into the Knesset by the Yamina party was debated – one which would have sought to redefine who may immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return. (Bill aims to alter Law of Return, Gil Hoffman, JPost, 8/26/20)

Knesset minister and Yamina party member, Bezalel Smotrich introduced the  bill which would effectively disallow those with Jewish grandparents from making Israel their home. The reason and consideration given was the “assimilation” believed to be a byproduct of allowing such individuals to live in Israel.

In contrast to this attempt at changing the Law of Return, Yoel Razbozov, Knesset minister and member of the Yesh Atid centrist party, who opposed passage of the law, is a perfect example of why such a change would result in the harm of many of his own fellow countrymen who also had Jewish grandparents. Razbozov was born in Birobidzhan, Russia and came to Israel along with his family while still a young child.  He is fully familiar with the antisemitism in his native country which has been unsympathetic to Jews. Consequently, he urged the Knesset not to pass such a bill which could backfire and ultimately be viewed as an anti-Semitic act. After an impassioned debate on Wednesday, Smotrich had no alternative but to rescind his bill for lack of support.

However, the entire fear of assimilation is unjustified since individuals are not permitted to legally marry in Israel or be registered as Jews unless their mother is Jewish. Of course, anyone with a basic understanding of scripture knows that Jewish lineage was passed down by the father and not the mother – as evidenced in the statement, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Jewish law arbitrarily changed that passage of lineage by attempting to justify that one always knew their mother but not necessarily their father. Yet, in today’s modern world, the overwhelming majority does know who both their parents are. Nonetheless, Israel’s stringent marriage laws would virtually make it impossible for couples to assimilate with the consent of the rabbinate, so what is really going on? And why now when, perhaps, more than ever before in the last 75 years, Jews and descendants of Jews find themselves at serious risk and are, therefore, weighing their options of immigration to Israel in unprecedented numbers?

Could it be that an increased population with more centrist or moderate views is viewed as a real threat to the orthodox monopoly which has had a massive stronghold on Israeli life for many years – one which they are not willing to relinquish? This is why they are unwilling to allow the performance of marriage ceremonies by even Conservative or Reformed Jewish rabbis. It is the reason that Messianic Jews are being prevented from immigration, and it is the reason why anything that differs from the particular lockstep, manmade orthodoxy is unwelcome and bitterly rejected.

Yet, as we watch the news and the events which are unfolding each day, many of us are deeply concerned for the welfare of Jews, be they partial or full. We know that Israel is looking better and better as a safer option for those who bear any Jewish identification, and so to think that at this period of time any Israeli political party would seek to make it more difficult or even impossible for such individuals to return to the land of their forefathers is both unconscionable and smacks of a purist, condescending and elite type of practice once used by those who believed that only pure Aryan blood was worthy of promulgating.

This, thankfully, was an unsuccessful attempt to change the Law of Return which has, for generations, enabled Israel to be a safe haven for those whose ancestry required such a refuge. However, it’s not inconceivable that other like-minded ultra-Orthodox Knesset members could, in the future, attempt to block those with Jewish ancestry from utilizing the present language contained in the Law of Return in order to immigrate.  That is why the title of this article is, “Better Make Aliyah Now if You Only Have One Jewish Grandparent.”