Monday, 14 January 2013

Did Israel Deceive Russian Jews?

Israel brought hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews to Israel in the early 1990s. Many of them are not halakhicly Jewish. Since the great Russian immigration, Israel has promised to find a way to deal with this problem. Each time it has tried to implement a solution, however, haredim have found a way to block it or destroy it.

These halakhicly non-Jewish Russians were not told before immigrating that they would be treated as second class citizens because of it. Yet many are.

And the governments which claimed to want to stop this often ended up enabling more of it because they needed coalition haredi votes to remain in power.

The haredi hatred for anything approaching a workable solution to Israel's conversion crisis was put on display for all to see last week when the Sefardi haredi Shas political party launched a notorious anti-Russian, anti-conversion ad campaign ad that has sparked more discord in an already fractured Israeli society.

Shas' stopped running the ad under the threat of having it banned by Israel's elections committee, but that did not end the discord the ad caused, as Roni Abramsom's op-ed in Ha'aretz shows:

    …Like many other immigrants from the former Soviet Union, my husband has a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. In Russia, one’s religion is determined by the father, as in Christian law, which meant my husband grew up defined as Jewish.

    As a child, he suffered severe schoolyard beatings for being Jewish. Once he came to Israel, where one's Jewishness is determined by the mother, he was beaten up for NOT being Jewish.

    My husband grew up loving this country, and chose to serve in a combat unit during his military service. He decided not to convert since, in his eyes, conversion is one more tool of oppression used by a racist state rather than a gift. When we informed our families of our intention to marry, the response was “thank goodness you’re Jewish so that your children won’t have problems.”…

    We knew that despite paying taxes and serving in the army in Israel (which my husband still does) we could never get married here. So in addition to the usual wedding expenses, we had to add $700 a person for a wedding package in Cyprus, where we held a civil ceremony so we could return to Israel and register as married with the Interior Ministry. Our travel agent, who specializes in such packages, proudly told us he had handled thousands of couples in our situation, all of whom were compelled by Israel to take this route.
    What about “mixed" couples who can’t afford this gimmick? …

    Conversion is now a demeaning, racist and cumbersome process. Will racist laws prevent people from falling in love, living together and having children?…

    Israel…brought [halakhicly non-Jewish Russians] here under the Law of Return, and never were they informed that they would be second-class citizens upon arrival.…

No comments: