Sunday, November 8, 2009

Convert? Moving to Israel? Look at This.

I'm not sure what to say about this Op/Ed from the Jerusalem Post today: The double lives of Jewish converts in Israel.

The gist of the Op/Ed is that there are converts living in Israel without healthcare, the ability to work, and who lack full acceptance as Jews in Israel, despite halakhic conversions. The situation works in such a way that people convert in the Diaspora, but once they head to Israel (legally, under the Law of Return), they're denied the basic rights that regular Jews are  under the same Law. Why? Because the Justice and Interior Ministers INSIST on reviewing all conversions, despite the 2005 ruling by the Supreme Court that converts should automatically been allowed in. Essentially, there are what the authors of the Op/Ed call "draconian citizenship tests." And then there's this:
Most recently, the Justice Ministry issued new protocols, already being implemented by the Jewish Agency, that demand an 18-month residency and a formal curriculum of study for converts abroad who want to come live here. These protocols demand that rabbis overseas ask certain specific questions of converts, that the process be reported in detail to the Israeli authorities and that converts adhere to strict bureaucratic procedures if they want their conversions to be accepted by Israeli civil authorities. In a word, civil bureaucrats are seeking to impose their will and standards on Diaspora Jewry, challenging the autonomy of Diaspora communities.
So what does a Diaspora Jewish convert do?

I'm guessing that if I'm considering Israel -- in any capacity, at any point in my life -- I should start looking at my options now. I should also probably talk to my beth din about this issue and see what their experience has been like. Are there really not that many converts who head to The Land post-conversion that this hasn't really come up before?

Talk about shocking. Appalling. Frustrating. Nod to @bethanyshondark for bringing the Op/Ed to my attention this morning.