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JfJfP comments


06 May: Tair Kaminer starts her fifth spell in gaol. Send messages of support via Reuven Kaminer

04 May: Against the resort to denigration of Israel’s critics


23 Dec: JfJfP policy statement on BDS

14 Nov: Letter to the Guardian about the Board of Deputies

11 Nov: UK ban on visiting Palestinian mental health workers

20 Oct: letter in the Guardian

13 Sep: Rosh Hashanah greetings

21 Aug: JfJfP on Jeremy Corbyn

29 July: Letter to Evening Standard about its shoddy reporting

24 April: Letter to FIFA about Israeli football

15 April: Letter re Ed Miliband and Israel

11 Jan: Letter to the Guardian in response to Jonathan Freedland on Charlie Hebdo


15 Dec: Chanukah: Celebrating the miracle of holy oil not military power

1 Dec: Executive statement on bill to make Israel the nation state of the Jewish people

25 Nov: Submission to All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism

7 Sept: JfJfP Executive statement on Antisemitism

3 Aug: Urgent disclaimer

19 June Statement on the three kidnapped teenagers

25 April: Exec statement on Yarmouk

28 Mar: EJJP letter in support of Dutch pension fund PGGM's decision to divest from Israeli banks

24 Jan: Support for Riba resolution

16 Jan: EJJP lobbies EU in support of the EU Commission Guidelines, Aug 2013–Jan 2014


29 November: JfJfP, with many others, signs a "UK must protest at Bedouin expulsion" letter

November: Press release, letter to the Times and advert in the Independent on the Prawer Plan

September: Briefing note and leaflet on the Prawer Plan

September: JfJfP/EJJP on the EU guidelines with regard to Israel

14th June: JfJfP joins other organisations in protest to BBC

2nd June: A light unto nations? - a leaflet for distribution at the "Closer to Israel" rally in London

24 Jan: Letter re the 1923 San Remo convention

18 Jan: In Support of Bab al-Shams

17 Jan: Letter to Camden New Journal about Veolia

11 Jan: JfJfP supports public letter to President Obama

Comments in 2012 and 2011




Not a right and not a return

This posting has these items:
1) ONE JJ: Introducing One JJ and their register of those Jews who reject the Law of Return. Sign up. “Our vision is to unite progressive Jews and to strengthen the impact of the international critical Jewish voice in 2017 and onwards”;
2) Haaretz: Jewish Enough for a Free Trip to Israel, but Not to Stay On, Judy Maltz on how immigration officers can decide you are not fit for Israel, 2014;
3) Notes and links: Lots of facts and figures and personal quotes, immigration to Israel by year and country, facts about Birthright;

ONE JJ is an international network of Jewish groups that will commemorate fifty years of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, seventy years of the UN Partition Plan and the centennial of the Balfour declaration. Our vision is to unite progressive Jews and to strengthen the impact of the international critical Jewish voice in 2017 and onwards.

To reject the  Law of Return, sign  ONEJJ‘s form.

Jews from all over the world, including Israel, at a Birthright event in Jerusalem. Photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90

Jewish Enough for a Free Trip to Israel, but Not to Stay On

Some young people on programmes like Birthright later face the Kafkaesque task of proving they qualify as Jews under the Law of Return.

Judy Maltz, Haaretz premium
January  23, 2014

They grew up believing they were Jewish. They signed up for programmes in Israel hoping to strengthen their Jewish identity. They came, saw, fell in love and decided to stay.

And then, just when they were about to accept their first job offer, they hit a wall. You want a work permit? Prove you’re Jewish – they were told by the Israeli authorities.

Variations of this story are increasingly being heard among graduates of Birthright, study-abroad and post-college internship programmes in Israel. Scores of young adults whose Jewish identity had never been questioned are suddenly being asked to prove their religious lineage when they request a change in their visa status.

For those born to two Jewish parents who were longtime members of recognized congregations and have a rabbi who can easily vouch for them, it’s usually a painless process. But for those whose families were never affiliated with a congregation, whose parents or grandparents may have lost their Jewish marriage certificates, who are the products of mixed marriages or have a parent who converted, providing this evidence can be a daunting task. It could be nightmarish enough to have them pack their bags and leave.

Ironically, it seems the new policy responsible for making these young Diaspora Jews feel less welcome was prompted by a desire to facilitate their integration. In mid-2012, the Interior Ministry published new rules designed to expedite the process of awarding and extending work and student visas for Jews. These rules waived any fees required in the past and extended the duration of the permits for much longer periods.

The catch was that to be eligible, applicants had to prove they were Jewish, according to the definition provided in the Law of Return. That is, they had to be the child, grandchild or spouse of a Jew, or a Jew by choice converted outside Israel.

As evidence of Jewish lineage, the ministry requires a letter from a rabbi serving as the acting leader of a congregation, and in the case of converts, all the relevant paperwork documenting the conversion. Its decisions are contingent on the recommendations of the Jewish Agency, which reviews all these documents to determine if the applicants fit the definition of a Jew by Israeli law.

“We are finding numerous cases these days of young adults in Israel trying to obtain work permits and being put through the ringer attempting to prove that they’re Jewish,” says Nicole Maor, an attorney with the Israel Religious Action Centre who has handled some of these cases. “What’s happening is that instead of encouraging these young Jews to strengthen their connections to Israel, they’re turning them off.”

Maor notes that in a recent case she appealed, a letter from a rabbi attesting to her client’s Jewish lineage was rejected because the rabbi had retired and was no longer the acting head of a congregation.

Rabbi runaround

B., an American who asked that his full name not be used, is another case in point. In 2010, he spent 10 months in Israel amme sponsored by Masa, the Jewish Agency-supported organization that runs hundreds of gap-year, study-abroad and post-college programmes in Israel.

Defining himself as a “third-generation atheist” whose maternal grandmother was born Jewish, he and his family never belonged to a Jewish congregation. When he finished his Masa programme, he decided to stay in Israel and complete a master’s degree, after which he began looking for a job.

“I was told I needed to get a work visa, and to do that, I needed a letter from my rabbi confirming that I was Jewish,” recalls B. “Because I didn’t have a congregational rabbi, I contacted my Hillel rabbi, who wrote me a letter, but the Interior Ministry said it wasn’t good enough because it didn’t say that my mother was Jewish, and this Hillel rabbi didn’t feel she could attest that my mother was Jewish.”

Because B. couldn’t find certified documentation of his mother’s Jewish lineage, he had no choice but to return to the United States for classes in Judaism to “affirm” his Jewish roots. In effect, he started a conversion course so he could come back to Israel and obtain his work permit.

The experience left him with a bitter taste. “What annoyed me is that I was excluded because I don’t have a rabbi to my name,” he says. “It makes me question whether I want to stay in Israel.”

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad told Haaretz the new policy, initiated by the former minister, Eli Yishai, aimed to entice young Jews to stay in Israel by making it easier for them to study and work here. “But for this privilege, there needs to be proof that they’re Jewish,” she says.

Before the new policy took effect, she notes, there were no specific regulations for handling work and student visa requests from Jews visiting from abroad.

According to other sources familiar with the subject, before 2012, requests for visa extensions and status changes from Jews were usually approved with a wink without any requirements for proof of Jewish lineage.

The Israeli government spends about $35 million a year on bringing young Jewish adults to Israel on Taglit-Birthright’s free 10-day-trips. Private philanthropists, Jewish federations and other organizations contribute about twice that amount combined.

Since Taglit-Birthright doesn’t accept candidates who have visited Israel before, its participants often come from nonaffiliated homes, many of them the products of mixed marriages. Among members of this group who choose to return to Israel after they have been on Birthright, the new policy is a major obstacle.

The government and Jewish Agency also subsidize Masa, and according to Avi Rubel, a senior director at the organization, about one-third of the 2,700 participants in its programs each year end up staying in Israel, where they inevitably begin looking for work.

Although Masa participants receive a special visa when they come to Israel, for which they are required to sign a document declaring that they are Jewish, the Israeli authorities usually don’t request evidence to substantiate this claim. This explains why participants like A. could be accepted to Masa but have their Jewish credentials challenged later on.

The Jewish Agency issued the following statement to Haaretz: “We attribute great importance to bringing young people from the Diaspora to Israel on a wide range of experiential programs and see this as a tool for strengthening their Jewish identity and for deepening their connection to the State of Israel. When these young people inquire into the possibility of obtaining permanent status in Israel, after participating in one of these programs, it is incumbent on them to approach the relevant offices that deal with these matters in Israel.”

Jewish grandma weighs in

G., a 28-year-old Californian, calls herself a “Birthright success story.” After taking a trip with the program in 2008, she moved back two years later to enroll in a graduate program at an Israeli university. The trouble began when she decided to apply for a work visa.

“I was told that the process would be expedited – and that I would not be charged for the visa – if I could prove that I was Jewish. I had a letter from my rabbi, but it didn’t specify that my mother’s side of the family was Jewish, so the Jewish Agency wouldn’t accept it,” she recounts.

“Because my mother wasn’t affiliated with any synagogue, there was no rabbi who could attest for her, so I had to ask my grandmother in South Carolina to get a letter from her rabbi stating that she was Jewish, and have him fax that letter to my rabbi in California, so that my rabbi could write a new letter confirming that my mother’s mother was Jewish, and that therefore so was my mother, and that therefore so was I.”

Rabbi Seth Farber, the founder and director of ITIM, an organization that helps people navigate Israel’s religious bureaucracy, says he has come across about 25 similar cases in recent years, mainly involving young Americans.

“What we are witnessing is the creation of a culture of xenophobia in the corridors of power in Israel,” he says. “It manifests itself in the way we treat people born Jewish who don’t fit the description of what a Jew should look like. Instead of Israel assuming its traditional role as a centre for Jewish peoplehood, it is driving these people away.”

The new policy not only affects Diaspora Jews seeking to work in Israel, but also those applying for special student visas to attend non-degree-granting educational institutions such as yeshivas and seminaries, Farber says.

The Interior Ministry issues two types of student visas: one for students at degree-granting institutions, and one for students at non-degree-granting institutions. Under the new policy, obtaining a student visa (including a fee waiver) at a non-degree-granting institution requires proof that the applicant meets the definition of a Jew in the Law of Return. Farber says:

“The problems begin in November-December, about the time that their three-month tourist visas expire. Then they have to start proving that they’re Jewish. The main problem is with those students who have mothers who are converts. They just don’t understand how anyone can be challenging their Jewishness. They can’t figure out why they should be excluded, and it’s absolutely devastating for them.”

The story of S. may be atypical because he grew up in a strongly affiliated Jewish home in the Washington D.C. area and even spent a year in Israel before attending college on a Young Judaea program. But that didn’t spare the 24-year-old a huge bureaucratic ordeal when he applied for his Israeli work visa.

“Even though I belonged to a Conservative congregation, I was able to get the Chabad rabbi near where I lived to write a letter for me, but that letter was rejected because it wasn’t hand-signed by him,” he says. “I finally was able to get a hand-signed letter from my rabbi, but it took months and months for that letter to be approved by the Jewish Agency, and meanwhile I almost had to give up my job.” Altogether, it took him close to six months to have his Jewish credentials validated.

According to Maor, many young Jews simply give up and leave the country. “Some of them end up overstaying their visas, so after they leave, they don’t want to come back to Israel because they’re afraid of being hassled at the airport for having been here illegally,” she says.

Maor believes there is no justification for using the same criteria to determine who is a Jew for both immigration and temporary visas.

“I can completely understand the need to have a strict definition in place for determining who is a Jew for citizenship, but why should the same criteria apply to people who are here temporarily for work or studies?” she says.

“After all, these people are not eligible for the same package of benefits as new immigrants.”



Birthright: eligibility , costs, donations

Eligible individuals are those who identify as Jewish and are recognized as such by their local community or by one of the recognized denominations of Judaism. Applicants must also have at least one Jewish birth parent, or have completed Jewish conversion through a recognized Jewish denomination. [Plus applicants must be between 19 and 26 years old]

$95 million – Birthright’s budget in 2015

45,000 – Total participants in 2015

$40 million – Annual contribution by the Israeli government

$20 million – Annual contribution by the organized Jewish community

$2.5 million — Top annual individual donation

6 – Number of Jewish family foundations who have contributed a million dollars or more in recent years

$90 million – Amount billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam Adelson, have donated since 2009, making them the biggest funders in the program’s history

So you think you are Jewish enough for an Israeli wedding? Prove it (premium)

Israel to ratchet up spending on outreach programs to Jews abroad (November 2013, premium)

Birthright pumped $825 million into Israeli economy in 13 years, study shows January 2014, premium

Bennett announces new measures to bring more young Jews to Israel, January 2014

Birthright, Masa graduates won’t have to prove they’re Jewish anymore to work in Israel, February 2014, premium

“OMG! I’ve just renounced my right to Jewish national self-determination.”

By Robert A. H. Cohen, Writing from the edge/ Patheos
December 03, 2016

Okay, here goes.

I’m renouncing my right to Jewish national self-determination.


Who Pays for Birthright? The Real Numbers Behind Free Trips to Israel

Posted by Virtual

Estimated numbers from Inside Philanthropy and the Birthright Israel website:

$95 million – Birthright’s budget in 2015

45,000 – Total participants in 2015

$40 million – Annual contribution by the Israeli government

$20 million – Annual contribution by the organized Jewish community

$2.5 million — Top annual individual donation

6 – Number of Jewish family foundations who have contributed a million dollars or more in recent years

$90 million – Amount billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam Adelson, have donated since 2009, making them the biggest funders in the program’s history
Total immigration to Israel by country of origin

Russia/Ukraine (Former USSR) 1,231,003
Morocco, Algeria & Tunisia 354,852*
Romania 276,586*
Poland 173,591*
Iraq 131,138*
United States 101,592
Ethiopia 92,730
France 81,885
Iran 76,934*
Argentina 66,916*
Turkey 62,837*
Yemen 50,731*
Bulgaria 44,372*
Egypt and Sudan 37,763*
Libya 35,844*
United Kingdom 35,164
Hungary 32,022*
India 28,702*
Czechoslovakia (Former) 24,468*
South Africa 20,038*
Germany 19,905*
Yugoslavia (Former) 10,768*
Syria 9,947*

* = Numbers for 2013 have yet to be released
Immigration 1948-2016

Highest number

1949 239,954
1990 199, 516
1951 175,279
1950 170,563
1948 101,828

After 1951 the numbers of immigrants falls from six-figure to five-figure numbers except for 1990, fall of USSR. The lowest immigration by year was 1986, 9,505.

Jewish dissidents are often ‘outlaws’
JFJFP-Sig-Blog-logo-for-webpageJo Bird, JfJfP signatory, discovers that Jewish identity can be self-defined and learned – which she has done – rather than inherited by Orthodox law. She feels solidarity with Palestinians because of, not in spite of, our Jewish heritage.

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