If Konstantin Umansky gets the job he wants, he will be the
Jewish Agency's first non-Jewish emissary. Umansky, whose
grandfather was Jewish, immigrated to Israel from the Ukraine
eight years ago under the Law of Return (which allows for the
immigration to Israel of the children and grandchildren of
Jews, even if they themselves are not Jewish).
The Vaad Horabbonim Haolami Leinyonei Giyur headed by HaRav
Chaim Kreiswirth has sharply criticized the Jewish Agency for
its plans to send a non-Jewish emissary to the C.I.S.
The Vaad joined the many other protesters including even the
Conservative movement, which understood the seriousness of
UTJ MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni sent a letter few weeks ago to the
Minister of Absorption, Yuli Tamir, and to the chairman of
the Jewish Agency, Salai Meridor warning against such a step.
"The State of Israel was established in order to be the state
of the Jewish people. This was determined explicitly in the
Declaration of Independence. The Law of Return, which is one
of the central laws on the issue, determines that the State
of Israel, including all of its authorities, encourages the
aliya of Jews to Israel" Rabbi Gafni wrote.
According to the spokesman for the Vaad, the decision of the
Jewish Agency is an additional slide in religious values in
the country, which is bringing about the uprooting of every
vestige of Judaism in the State of Israel. The decision to
transfer the turbine on Shabbos in order to destroy the
Shabbos is on par with the decision to send a non-Jew as an
The Vaad also sharply criticized the Conversion
Administration of the Chief Rabbinate which criticized the
emissary solely for his lack of interest in converting.
The spokesman of the Vaad was shocked by the fact that a
representative of the Chief Rabbinate said that every one of
the masses of non-Jews who arrived in Israel with the wave of
immigration from the former Soviet Union can convert easily,
if they so wish.
The spokesman warned that proper halachic conversion
obligates genuine kabbolos ol hamitzvos,something
which can't be expected from most of the immigrants. As a
result, every conversion of such immigrants is null and void
"Conversion is not a solution for the problem of the masses
of non Jews who arrived in Israel, and other solutions should
be found," the spokesman said.
The Vaad HaRabbonim called on the Chief Rabbinate to stop
senior officials of the Conversion Administration from making
statements, which contradict halocho. "The Chief Rabbis
themselves must convey publicly the position of the Chief
Rabbinate regarding conversion," the spokesman said.
According to a report in Ha'aretz, in the last five
years Umansky has worked for the Immigrant Students
Administration, jointly run by the Jewish Agency and the
Ministry of Absorption.
About a year ago, he tendered his candidacy for Jewish Agency
emissary to the city of Dniepropetrovsk, one of the largest
cities in the Ukraine, with a Jewish population of about
50,000. Umansky underwent the entire selection process,
including the course for emissaries, without having been
asked whether or not he was Jewish.
However, when the local rabbi in Dniepropetrovsk, Rabbi
Shmuel Kaminsky, found out that Umansky was not Jewish, he
told the Jewish Agency that the would not allow him to work
within the community.
"We have worked in full cooperation with the Jewish Agency
and the Liaison Bureau since 1990, and we have never told
them who to send," Rabbi Kaminsky told Ha'aretz.
"We have had people here with earrings, nose rings and
piercing in all kinds of strange places and we worked with
them in full cooperation," Rabbi Kaminsky lamented. "But to
send us a goy who does not even plan to convert, that
is impossible. After all, he is supposed to work with the
community and bring them closer to Judaism. How can he do
that if he himself is not Jewish?"
"I never thought there would be any problem with my
candidacy," Umansky told Ha'aretz. "The Law of Return
does not discriminate between those who are Jewish and those
who only have a Jewish parent or grandparent.
"In all my years in Israel, I have dealt with immigration and
students and I feel that I have a great deal to contribute in
this matter. Jewish tradition is close to my heart and I
don't think that Judaism is a matter of biology [sic]."
Umansky's supporters maintain that the moment the Law of
Return does not distinguish between Jews and those who are
children or even grandchildren of Jews, the Jewish Agency
should not make any distinction as to who it sends as
immigration emissaries. In their view, only professional
criteria should be used to judge their suitability for the
The Supreme Emissaries Committee is to meet soon to decide
whether or not Umansky is suitable for the job from a
Various sources from within the Jewish Agency have said that
it appears that the committee will opt to disqualify Umansky
on personal grounds in order to avoid having to decide on the
matter in principle.
Umansky has already told Ha'aretz that if that
happens, "It is completely clear that the disqualification
will be on racial grounds and I intend to appeal to the High
Court in that case.