Minister of Interior Sharansky announced that 208,000 non Jews from the former Soviet Union (FSU) immigrated to Israel in the ten year period ending in 1998. This is the first time that the Interior Ministry has revealed such a clear statistic, noting that in the year 1999 over 50% of the immigrants were non-Jews. These numbers refer to immigrants who declare themselves to be non-Jews, and does not take into account those who claim to be Jewish but are not.
According to the official figures of the Jewish Agency, in 1989, 94 percent of those arriving were Jews and 6% were non Jews. By 1997, the last year for which the Agency currently has statistics, the ratio was 65 percent Jews to 45 percent non-Jews. The Ministry of Interior, as noted above, says that current immigration is over 50% non-Jews. About 65,000 people immigrated from the C.I.S. last year.
It is well known that these figures understate the truth since false papers are very easy to acquire in the former Soviet Union so that many arrive with papers saying that they are Jewish when they are really not Jewish. According to the research of the Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur headed by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth, the actual number of non Jews -- both those who declared themselves openly to be not Jewish and those who declared themselves to be Jewish but are not -- who immigrated in that period is 350,000. This comes to about 40% of the total immigration from the FSU. The Vaad believes that the proportion of the current aliya that is really not Jewish is 80%!
The demographic makeup of the immigration makes the figures even more worrisome. Many of the true Jews who arrive are older, past the age of marriage and building a family. The non-Jewish immigrants tend to be younger. According to the Vaad, the proportion of all the immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are of marriageable age and are not Jewish is about 75%.
The result of all this is that because of the lack of proper control by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate over the marriage registrars, over 5,000 couples are officially married by the Rabbinate every year in which at least one of the partners is a non-Jew from the former Soviet Union.
The non-Jews can come in under the Law of Return and receive full immigrant benefits, paid for partly by the Israeli government and partly by Diaspora Jewry through the Jewish Agency.
There are many stories of how a single intermarried Jew brought in his or her wake tens of open non-Jews. A recent story told by Interior Minister Sharansky was particularly dramatic. He said that one woman came from Ethiopia and expressed what appeared to be a genuine interest in Judaism and a desire to become Jewish. After her conversion, some 70 people, none of them Jewish, followed her to Israel, some under the Law of Return and some under the Law of Entry.
Rabbi Yisroel Rosen, chairman of the Conversion Authority of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, and Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan, administrator of the Rabbinical Courts, have announced that in the last four years some 10,000 conversions have been performed by various Orthodox rabbinical courts in Israel, including a record number of 3,500 last year.
A spokesman for the Vaad commented that even though these "conversions" were performed by Orthodox rabbis, most of them are invalid since there was no true and sincere kabolas mitzvos. The spokesman recalled the comment of the Chazon Ish to his cousin HaRav Shlomo Karelitz, zt"l, who recently passed away, that 90% of the converts are goyim gemurim who have not truly accepted Torah and mitzvos.
This was said around 5714 (1953), the Vaad spokesman concluded, and it certainly is all the more applicable to the year 5760 (1999).