The Interior Ministry has denied the Jewish status of more than 2,200 children born to immigrants from the former Soviet Union in recent years, following investigations it conducted into the documentation provided upon immigration.
As reported by The Jerusalem Post in 2018, the Interior Ministry’s investigations only target citizens from the former Soviet Union, or their children, but it now appears that the ministry is conducting them on a far more systematic basis.
The data was obtained by the Itim religious services advisory organization following a freedom of information request it made in 2018.
It took a year for the request to be granted and the information provided, which is accurate as of the middle of 2018. There are likely many more children who the Interior Ministry has refused to register as Jewish today.
Typically, the investigations begin when a citizen from the former Soviet Union has a child and registers it with the Interior Ministry, or when another member of the family seeks to perform some other bureaucratic function with the ministry, such as marriage registration or similar.
It appears that when officials from the ministry notice that an individual is from the former Soviet Union they begin their investigations into their Jewish status, and examine documents provided when they or their parents immigrated.
In some cases, the Interior Ministry has refused to register as Jewish some citizens who actually married through the chief rabbinate.
In one case reported by the Post, the Interior Ministry refused to register as Jewish the child of a woman whose grandmother was a Holocaust survivor and whose mother was a Soviet refusenik who eventually was able to leave the Soviet Union and married through the Chief Rabbinate.
When the Interior Ministry flags up an individual they believe not to be Jewish, a vaguely worded letter is sent to them informing them of indeterminate issues with their Jewish status.
“According to the information held by the Population and Immigration Authority [of the Interior Ministry] the details of your religion and nationality in the registry are incorrect and need rectification,” reads the opaque letter.
The letter informs the addressee that should they refuse to agree to their change in status and be unable to provide requisite proof that they are indeed Jewish, the ministry will seek a court order to change their status without their permission, and threatens that they will liable to pay court costs as well.
These investigations are conducted into citizens even if they have already proved their Jewish status to the chief rabbinate in the past.
The Interior Ministry appears to have adopted extremely strict standards, and take issue with small discrepancies in documentation dating back to the 1940s and 1950s which often arose due to war, internal displacement, the Holocaust, attempts to hide a person’s official Jewish identity, or clerical error.
“This policy is a policy of harassment of families and the Interior Ministry is trying to strip them of the religious and national identity that brought them on aliyah in the first place,” said ITIM director Rabbi Seth Farber.
“Clerks are telling them their Jewishness is in question because of their ethnicity. There is a culture of suspicion against the very Jews who one generation ago we fought to save, and we’re now telling them they’re not welcome in this country.”
The Population and Immigration Authority said in response to the disclosure of the 2,200 children whose Jewish status has been denied that “The law permits that if it be discovered that the registry of religious and national details are erroneous, officials in the authority are empowered to amend the registry and even turn to the courts. This is not a policy that seeks to discriminate against immigrants. This is something which is correct [to do] for anyone in the population registry, regardless of if they were born here or are immigrants.”
By Jeremy Sharon