After a long legal battle, Israel’s Interior Ministry finally agreed to follow Israeli law and recognize the conversions of a large African-American family who subsequently moved to Israel and sought citizenship under the Law of Return.
Black Converts Illegally Denied Israeli Citizenship For Almost 5 Years Finally Get It
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
After a 3-year-long legal battle, Israel’s Interior Ministry finally agreed to follow Israeli law and recognize the conversions of a large American family who subsequently moved to Israel and sought citizenship, Ha’aretz reported.
The Mosley family converted in 2008 through a well-known Reform rabbi in the US. Under Israeli law, the Interior Ministry had to recognize the family as Jews and grant them citizenship under the Law of Return when the family moved to Israel in 2011.
But in the first case of its kind, the Interior Ministry refused to do so – apparently not because the converting rabbi, Arthur Nemitoff of Congregation Bnei Jehuda in Overland Park, Kansas, is Reform, but because the entire 13-member family is African American.
After moving to Israel in 2011, the entire 13-member Mosley family moved to the port city of Ashkelon and are reportedly active members of Congregation Netzach Israel, a Masorti (Conservative) Movement synagogue.
After their conversion but when they still lived in the US, the Mosleys tried to get Jewish Agency approval to make aliya under Israel’s Law of Return, which gives automatic citizenship to all Jews, including converts.
For months, the Jewish Agency reportedly did not respond to the Mosleys’ request and they they decided to immigrate to Israel without the Agency’s help. They arrived in Israel on tourist visas. In late 2012 after their those visas expired, the Mosleys received notification from the Interior Ministry that their request to immigrate under the Law of Return was denied, and the entire family was ordered to leave Israel.
The two major non-Orthodox Jewish religious movements in Israel, the Masorati (Conservative) and Reform, then waged a three-year legal battle to get the Israeli government to follow the law of the land, end its mistreatment and discrimination against the Mosleys and grant them the citizenship they were legally entitled to receive.
Last year, Israel’s High Court of Justice ordered the Interior Ministry explain its criteria for accepting and rejecting conversions performed outside Israel.
The Interior Ministry then offered to give the Mosleys temporary 4-year visas, likely a ploy to remove the case from the immediate control of the High Court, which would almost certainly rule against the Interior Ministry in this case. The non-Orthodox movements rejected the offer.
Then last month, as the High Court was about to rule against it, the Interior Ministry told the High Court it would recognize the Mosleys as Jews under the Law of Return.
The Mosleys suffered greatly during their long wait for citizenship. They were not allowed to work and were denied medical care by the government.
“We’ve provided them with food coupons and packages, and we’ve paid for their medical services since they were not eligible for government-provided healthcare insurance,” Terri Davis, who works for the Mosley’s synagogue in Ashkelon, told Ha’aretz.
African-American converts to Judaism have faced intense scrutiny by the Interior Ministry over the past few years, in part because the Interior Ministry fears many of them are tied to the Black Hebrew sect, a community of African-Americans, almost all originally from Chicago, who came to Israel on tourist visas, settled in Dimona, and claim they are the true Jews.
The movement, formally named the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, was founded in 1966 in Chicago as an outgrowth of the Civil Rights Movement by Ben Carter, who changed his name first to Ben Ammi Carter and then to Ben Ammi Ben Israel. In 1969, Carter and about 30 other African Hebrew Israelites moved to Israel. During the next two decades, another 600 followed. By 2006, approximately 2,500 Hebrew Israelites lived in Dimona and two other towns in southern Israel. They have no known Jewish ancestry and have never formally converted.
But when asked to comment on the Mosley’s case last year, the Interior Ministry reportedly said it rejected the Mosley’s request because of “serious doubts” it had about their “about their conversion process and its purpose.” That judgement, the Interior Ministry said, was based on material given – by whom it is not clear – to representatives of Israel’s Population Registry, which is part of the Interior Ministry.
[Hat Tip: Yochanan Lavie.]