February 17, 2019

The Non-Jewish Jews of Israel's "Law of Return"

“Permit me, as the chief justice (av bet din) of the first of the independent courts of Giyur K’Halacha, to give a fuller background as to why Giyur K’Halacha began to operate as well as into the true halachic status of those who were “not legally Jewish,” in the words of the headline cited above.

When the Jewish state was established, one of the very first laws promulgated by the Knesset was the Law of Return: After 2,000 years of Jewish homeless wanderings and persecutions, any Jews from anywhere on the globe seeking safe haven would be welcome to immigrate to Israel and gain automatic citizenship.

However, the next necessary question to be answered proved to be the most difficult one: Who is a Jew? Questionnaires were sent to Jewish philosophers and halachists throughout the world, and, as you conjecture, the responses were many and varied with no unanimity at all.”

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