Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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5 Iyar 5760 - May 10, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Protest Against Bogus IDF Rabbinate Conversions and Netiv

by B. Rabinowitz

This past chol hamoed Pesach, "Shai," the Organization for the Preservation of the Jewish Identity of Israel, organized two demonstrations. One was held in front of the offices of the IDF Rabbinate in Tel Aviv, while the other was held opposite the offices of Netiv. The demonstrators protested against the IDF Rabbinate's performance of fictitious "conversions" and Netiv's granting immigration permits to masses of non-Jews from the C.I.S.

The demonstration in front of the entrance of the office of the IDF Rabbinate in Tel Aviv was attended by a number of Torah-observant Jews -- former Russians -- who protested the IDF Rabbinate's wholesale "conversion" industry for non- Jewish soldiers from the C.I.S. The demonstration was held in the wake of a disclosure by Yated Ne'eman and in light of the fact that the "rabbis" who signed the "conversion" certificates are unnamed.

The demonstrators bore banners reading: "Shame on the Judaism Tradesman;" "The IDF Rabbinate Conversions are a Chilul Hashem and a Disgrace to the IDF;" "Stop the False Conversions -- Pity Us and our Children." The demonstrators explained the reason for the protest to passing soldiers, telling them about reports filling the Russian language newspapers that praise the easy "conversions" offered within the military. They also explained the danger that massive assimilation of non-Jews poses to the continuation of the Jewish Nation.

A number of uniformed soldiers did not hesitate to express their identification with and support for the demonstrators. The demonstrators noted that in addition to the chilul Hashem and contempt for Torah displayed by those conducting these "conversions," the trend also undermines orderly procedure, since the converting rabbis refuse to sign their names and reveal their identities.

They also called this trend an abuse of public funds, since the IDF Rabbinate budgets supposedly earmarked for the soldiers' many religious needs are being exploited by the conversion industry. The demonstrators announced that they intend to conduct additional protest activities, both against these spurious conversions and against the overall fictitious conversion systems which have been thriving in the State in recent years.

Shai also held a "traditional demonstration" in front of the Netiv offices, in protest of the continued importation of non- Jews from the countries of the C.I.S. It was attended by aliya activists and former Prisoners of Zion. In previous years, Netiv had opened its offices on chol hamoed in the mornings. This year, however, apparently due to its unwillingness to expose itself to the demonstration, the offices closed early, before the demonstration began.

The demonstrators protested the continuation of the policy of encouraging immigration from the C.I.S which, in essence under the conditions prevailing today, encourages inundation of the state by non-Jewish immigrants. They pointed to the destructive role of Netiv in this pernicious trend.

Former head of Netiv Yaakov Kedmi even affirmed the demonstrators' claims. A day before the demonstration he appeared on an interview in the media and bemoaned the fact that the Interior Ministry, currently under the "control" of Yisrael B'Aliya, is not doing enough to welcome non-Jewish immigrants from the C.I.S.

The demonstrators condemned the stubborn opposition of the heads of Netiv to any suggested change in the Law of Return which would restrict the non-Jewish immigration. They claim that Yaakov Kedmi's position on this issue is well known, and that his successor, Tzvi Magen, recently remarked during deliberations in the Knesset's Aliya and Absorption committee that as a government employee he is prevented from stating his position on the matter. However, immediately afterwards, he expounded on the issue in a manner clearly indicating that he believes that the Law of Return must not be changed.

The demonstrators, among them former Prisoners of Zion and aliya activists, stressed that Netiv gained its power and status from the hundreds of thousands of Jewish families who lived in Russia and who suffered from their non-Jewish neighbors. They said that they are the children of those Jewish families who provided the "Jews" in the census polls of the Soviet Union, thereby justifying the need for an office such as Netiv, which is experienced in forming links with Jews being the Iron Curtain. They then said that now that almost no Jewish families live in the C.I.S -- since nearly all came to Israel with the hope of never again encountering an oppressive non-Jewish environment -- Netiv's representatives earn their livings by granting immigration permits to masses of non-Jews.

They also noted that the two organizations involved in this scheme -- the Jewish Agency and Netiv -- each pin the responsibility on the other, when essentially each serves the needs of its counterpart. The Jewish Agency locates non- Jewish "immigration candidates," while Netiv provides them with permits.

In addition, startling statistics about the salaries of Netiv personnel were disclosed. The demonstrators ask why the recommendations of the official investigating committee and those of the State Comptroller regarding Netiv were "thrown into the garbage," as Yaakov Kedmi so brashly says, and why the multi-legged octopus continues to flourish.

One of the demonstrators related how in the beginning of 1991 he met a new Jewish immigrant who had made aliya at the same time that Yaakov Kedmi and his assistant, Lev Niv, had made aliya. The demonstrator described the intense cynicism with which the two related to complaints regarding the stream of non-Jews from Russia into Israel. The demonstrators declared that evading the issue will be of no avail, and that the outcry against non-Jewish immigration will continue to reverberate. In the end, it will embrace all of the Jews of the country who want their children to remain Jews in their land and not to assimilate among imported masses of non- Jews. "The battle to stop the importation of non-Jews and to save Israeli society from total destruction and attrition will continue," he said.

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