I am writing in response to two intersecting articles which appeared recently in the Jerusalem Post – one on Friday, June 19, 2020 entitled, “ Preparing for the ingathering” and the editorial on Sunday, June 21, 2020 entitled, ”Harassing Jews.”
As I read the first article, I couldn’t help but wonder how realistic the arbiters of Israeli Aliyah, the Interior Ministry and the rabbinate are. On the one hand, Israel’s leaders always speak about how very much they want Diaspora Jews to “come home,” while at the same time, those who decide who gets to come home often make subjective and one-sided prejudicial decisions concerning the legitimacy of one’s Jewish ethnicity.
Given today’s extremely precarious and ever-changing global atmosphere, anti-Semitism is rapidly picking up steam and being felt in every corner of the world. We read daily that Jewish communities have never been more wary or fearful of what could happen to them as they are blamed for everything from the outbreak of Coronavirus to controlling capitalism, media and whatever else can be added to the ills of the world. In the U.S., Jews have the extra burden of being white and, therefore, being blamed for their original sin of racism for which all whites are now guilty. According to many accounts, requests to the Jewish Agency and Nefesh b’Nefesh to immigrate to Israel have never been higher, and, thus, preparation is being made for “the ingathering.”
One slight problem, though. Diaspora Jews have, in a great many cases, intermarried, not been observantly religious and some have even chosen to identify with another philosophy or faith. Does that mean they are no longer part of the Jewish race? Certainly not! Being born to Jewish parents or grandparents cannot be erased and is generally not denied. Israeli Jews, many of whom do not subscribe to keeping kosher, do not observe Shabbat or ever step foot into a synagogue enjoy their right to live as they choose for one simple reason. They were born here, but if you had the misfortune of having been born a Jew outside the Land, you are held to a standard to which Israeli Jews are not. You must present a letter from a rabbi – whether you know him or not, you must prove that you are still observant and that you subscribe to no other religious viewpoint which differs from today’s rabbinical Orthodox Judaism. It’s even worse if you’re a bonafide convert to Judaism. Unless you did so through a particular branch and rabbi who is accepted by Israel, you will not be embraced and welcomed since Conservative and Reformed converts are considered ineligible for the coveted citizenship privilege.
In short, Israel says they want Jews to come home, but only those they deem to be desirable. All others need not apply!
Under that kind of thinking, Israel may well end up contributing to the demise of many of their people who, in their estimation, are those undesirables – those who didn’t fit their mold because they chose a different path. Yet, according to the Law of Return, their Jewish parents or grandparents grant them eligibility for citizenship.
Perhaps the greatest sin is not only failing to welcome those who, for years, have dreamt of returning to their homeland in order to experience a more authentic cultural and spiritual awakening but then later questioning their right to be here and even, in some cases, attempting to strip them of the status which is rightly theirs.
Countless born Jews are being denied citizenship due to the fact that they choose to believe something other than mainstream rabbinic Orthodox Judaism, and it is their right to do so. Some are here already. As stated in the JPost editorial, some have been threatened to have their status taken away. Others have been living here with no status (simply a visa) while waiting years for the country to officially recognize the fact that they are Jewish and have every right to be here just as the pork-eating Israelis whose ethnic birthright is never challenged.
Among those already here, are many who gave up comfortable lifestyles and livelihoods to live the Zionist dream in the land of their forefathers. Yet, instead of being heartily welcomed with balloons and fanfare, they have been met with disdain, contempt and indifference by a technocratic group of bureaucrats whose orders come from a minority of religious zealots who think they are doing them a favor by giving them a temporary visa until their costly court cases finally decide something which should have never been up for debate.
Where is the Israel that was set up to be a refuge for world Jewry who never was a one-size fits all people? Do they callously send them back to an uncertain fate in a country that may not be able to protect them? Does Israel not remember how desperate Jews were turned away from other nations who could have saved them in their hour of need? Do we want that kind of legacy now when all Jews so clearly need protecting?
Where are our politicians and our principled leaders? Do they not understand that American Jews, more than ever, need to be accepted here no matter what they believe? This is no time in history to deny any Jew who chooses to return home no matter what his faith, beliefs or ideology. Birth ethnicity must be the only criteria to be considered. Anything short of that is condemning our own people to a fate which may prove deadly. Am Israel Chai can only be a reality if our country allows it to be so for all Jews with no strings attached!