Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Kislev 5760 - November 24, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Trying to Solve the Immigration Time Bomb

According to the official statistics of the Interior Ministry, more than half of the immigrants who arrived from the former Soviet Union (now the C.I.S.) in the past year are not Jewish. This refers to people whom no one considers Jewish. They were not converted to Judaism by anyone, and in most cases have to desire to do so. They declare openly and without any equivocation that they are not Jewish. Many are believing Christians and have every intention of continuing to practice their faith in Israel. They are 100% non-Jews, through and through.

There are many more who have Jewish papers but are not really Jewish. According to the research of the Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur headed by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth more than 60% of those who declared that they are Jewish are not telling the truth. Though these immigrants do claim to be Jews, no recognized Jewish authority agrees with them. They did not undergo any process or ceremony that made them Jewish, but only managed somehow to present papers that say that they are Jewish. Many are just looking for a better life and do not in any way identify with the Jewish people. They remain, inside, thoroughly un-Jewish and some are even antisemites.

This is a social time bomb. Thousands upon thousands have come to live among the Jewish population, but they do not look upon themselves as Jews. How will they react if there are social stresses and strains? How will they react to political and military threats?

It is ridiculous and even pathetic to suggest that the answer is a more liberal conversion policy, as do the Reform and Conservatives, as well as many observant Jews. The head of the Chief Rabbinate's Conversion Authority, Rabbi Israel Rosen, argues that in order to solve the problem of the Russian immigrants we need a "broad" and "inclusive" approach to conversion that will allow as many as possible to convert and thereby, according to his argument, become an integral part of the Jewish people.

The Reform and Conservative also cite their liberal approach to conversion as an answer to the social time bomb of hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish immigrants from the FSU.

The facts ridicule both suggestions. As expose after expose in Yated Ne'eman and even in the secular media have shown, the current standards for conversion are very low. They are much lower than we would like, and many who pass the standards do not really become Jews since the clear halacha is that a conversion candidate who does not sincerely and completely accept Torah and mitzvos remains non-Jewish. Nonetheless, the experience from the current practice does allow some conclusions to be drawn.

Some 3,000 were converted by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and a total of only 10,000 in the past four years. This certainly represents a considerable proportion of all those who were interested, and it is clearly no more than a drop in the bucket of the hundreds of thousands of non-Jews. They are simply not interested in converting. No solution involving conversion is even possible unless they are at least seeking to convert.

The best solution is to maintain the traditional Jewish separation from non-Jews, and to let them live in peace at they see fit, as long as they do not disturb us.

The most important step that can be taken is to repeal the archaic Law of Return whose broad criteria of eligibility allow entry to these people and threatens the Jewish character of the State of Israel.

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