A disproportionate number of Israelis who leave Israel to live elsewhere in the world are immigrants from the former Soviet Union – immigrants whose Jewish status was questioned by the country’s haredi-controlled chief rabbinate and government agencies acting on the chief rabbinate’s determination of status, an expert on emigration trends reportedly told a conference held in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, today.
Large Number Of Israelis Of Jewish Descent Not Recognized As Jews By Haredi Rabbis Leave Israel For Diaspora, Expert Says
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
A disproportionate number of Israelis who leave Israel to live elsewhere in the world are immigrants from the former Soviet Union – immigrants whose Jewish status was questioned by the country’s haredi-controlled chief rabbinate and government agencies acting on the chief rabbinate’s determination of status, an expert on emigration trends reportedly told a conference held in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, today, Ha’aretz reported.
Yogev Karasenty, a policy adviser to the Jewish Agency, said that of the 15,900 Israelis who left Israel in 2012 to live elsewhere, more than one third were labeled by the government’s Central Bureau of Statistics as “other” – a designation almost always used to label immigrants who came to Israel from the former Soviet Union under the Law of Return and received citizenship under that law, but who are not Jewish according to Halakha (Jewish law), or whose lineage cannot be confirmed by the chief rabbinate because confirming documents and and other items, like gravestones, used for such verification are missing or were destroyed in wars or by totalitarian communist regimes – rather than Jewish or Muslim or Christian.
In Israel, there is no civil marriage, and religious communities officially recognized by the state control all marriages, most divorces and all burials. All such Jewish lifecycle events are under the control of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, which controls he country’s entire state religious apparatus. The chief rabbinate is haredi-controlled, and it has made conversion to Judaism very difficult.
“If this particular group [of Israelis] had access to a friendlier conversion process, it would be very reasonable to assume that their drop-out rates would not be as high. Because they are not considered Jewish here, it is much more difficult for them to feel a part of the country,” Karasenty, a former fellow at the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, reportedly said.
Karasenty also noted that those 2012 numbers are representative of what has taken place in recent years.
He also estimated the number of immigrants from the former Soviet Union designated as “other” is somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000 but was still shocked by the disproportionally high number of these people leaving Israel.
“I had expected that their share among those leaving the country would be higher than that of native-born Israelis, but I was surprised to discover that it was that high,” he reportedly said.
World Bank figures reportedly show that approximately 350,000 Israelis currently live outside Israel, most in North America.
But Karasenty reportedly said those figures are flawed because they only count people born in Israel, not immigrants to Israel who later leave.
He believes the number of Israelis who have left the country to live abroad is much higher – between 550,000 and 580,000. About 100,000 of those Israeli expats are Arabs.
This means that more than half of Israelis who left the country over the past few years to live elsewhere are people who immigrated to Israel, most from the FSU, Karasenty said.
It also should mean that many of the Israelis labeled as Jews by the government who left did so to be with an Israeli so labeled by the government as "other."
Haredi and right-wing Zionist Orthodox “haredi-lite” (harda”l; haredi dati leumi) rabbis and politicians are vehemently opposed to a current attempt to reform Israel’s state-controlled process of conversion to Judaism. That reform would decentralize the process by allowing state-employed chief rabbis of cities, towns and rural areas to form their own conversion courts, and would allow potential converts to choose which of those courts to convert with.
While all of those local chief rabbis are Orthodox, many moderate are Zionist Orthodox and are opposed by the haredi establishment and by the hard religious right-wing of Zionist Orthodoxy.
That conversion reform so hated by haredim was originally supposed to passed as a Knesset bill, but Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu had the bill tabled last month and moved to his cabinet, where he said it would be implemented through administrative reform.
But then, in order to appease the haredi political parties he likely will need to form his next coalition government, 11 days ago Netanyahu killed the administrative conversion reform, as well.
The bill's original sponsor, MK Elazar Stern of the Hatnuah Party, which is a member of Netanyahu's governing coalition, bucked Netanyahu and, with the support of Hatnuah's head, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, put the bill back in the Knesset where it is now active. It passed the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee earlier this week by a 6 to 5 margin. All of Netanyahu's Likud Party representatives on the committee, as well as all of the haredi representatives and the representative of the right-wing Zionist Orthodox HaBayit HaYehudi Party, all voted to block the bill.
When that happened, Israel's two state-employed haredi chief rabbis met with Netanyahu – who is not Orthodox or religious in any way – and announced that if the conversion reform bill – which has wide support among moderate Zionist Orthodox and Modern Orthodox rabbis – passes, they would refuse to recognize any conversions done under it.