The Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, an umbrella body for 80 US congregations is leading a 300 member contigent in a three day conference in Jerusalem beginning today. As part of the conference, discussion of the “discrimination” by Israeli government policies concerning immigration by “Messianic Jews”. Estimates claim that there are at least 12,000 Messianic Jews living in Israel, and up to a quarter of a million in the United States.
Israel’s Law of Return grants automatic citizenship to all descendants of Jews (with Jewish parents or grandparents), regardless of their current religion. Israel’s Supreme Court, however, has ruled in a 1970 amendment of the Law that Messianic Jews whose mothers are Jewish can be denied Israeli citizenship, based on a landmark 1962 case involving a Polish Jew who had converted to Catholicism and was living a monastic life. According to a Messianic Jewish immigration lawyer, the law has created an “absurd situation in which Messianic Jews must prove they are not Jewish in order to make aliya”
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a leading religious Zionist authority and head of the Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva in Jerusalem’s Old City, stated that Messianic Jews should not be considered Jews. Noting the influence of the Nazi Nuremberg laws in framing the Law of Return, he said “It is true that a lot of righteous people were persecuted and murdered by the Nazis…but that does not make them Jewish.”
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