Jewish Agency baffles would-be aliyah applicants

Jewish Agency baffles would-be aliyah applicants

For Jewish News July 15 2022

British Jews eager to make aliyah are “tearing their hair out” after being made to wait more than 18 months for their application to be processed, with one couple told there was “insufficient proof” of Jewish identity despite an endorsement from the London Beth Din.

Alexander Menashe, whose wife’s application was rejected after being told there was “not sufficient proof” of her heritage, despite the Beth Din confirming her status, told Jewish News: “Literally everyone I know who is trying to make aliyah at the moment is on the verge of giving up. They are tearing their hair out.”

Other examples include a woman whose husband is Israeli and was previously issued with a temporary residence visa, who was asked to provide proof of her Jewishness despite her parents and one of her children having already made aliyah from the UK.

Another Orthodox woman, with adult children serving in the IDF, has been waiting more than 18 months to have her application approved, while another family who grew up in London’s Chasidic community has been waiting almost a year after their initial file was opened.

Yet another applicant – long divorced from her husband – says she was asked to provide her ex-husband’s grandmother’s birth certificate in a document bundle for the Jewish Agency.

Miriam Rosenberg, Alexander’s wife (Alexander already has Israeli citizenship), told Jewish News she expected some delay in her application because she was born in Poland, and grew up not knowing she was Jewish until she was a teenager.

She came to Britain 15 years ago and says she has been fully religiously observant for six years. “When I wanted to get married, I went to the London Beth Din and provided them with four generations of documentation about my family.”

The Beth Din approved the material and gave her a letter confirming her Jewish status. She and Alexander subsequently married under the auspices of the Federation of Synagogues in 2018. She said: “The Jewish Agency wanted to see the documents I had shown the London Beth Din. They asked many questions about my family, asking for pictures of graves and details of my grandmother’s and mother’s involvement in the Jewish community in Poland.”

Such information was not available, Ms Rosenberg said, because during communist rule after the war, members of her family had married out and concealed their Jewish identity. Her mother and grandmother still live in Poland but, she said, “have no real awareness of being Jewish — although they know they are”.

She said she had found the whole process “so long and ridiculous, so frustrating. I know many people have given up. People are being driven crazy by the paperwork. One woman told me that she had been asked to supply all the details of her previous travel to Israel dating back more than 30 years.”

Ms Rosenberg said Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, had been made aware of the complaints.

After being turned down by the Eligibility Department of the Jewish Agency, Ms Rosenberg has now learned that her application is being reconsidered.

Her husband said the couple were at a loss to understand why her Jewish status was good enough for the Beth Din, but not the Jewish Agency.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Jewish Agency told Jewish News: “We operate according to the Israeli Law of Return and the regulations of the Israeli Population and Immigration Authority, which is the sole authority when it comes to aliyah.

“Each aliyah applicant is required to prove their connection to Judaism through documentation, in accordance with the Law of Return. The Law of Return is not similar to Jewish law and, in some cases, a letter from a rabbi or a Beth Din will not be sufficient.

“The Jewish Agency works together with the applicant and the ministry in order to ensure the applicant receives the full aliyah benefits to which they are entitled.”

  • 17 July, 2022