The Ministry of Immigration and Absorption reports success in recruiting religious-Zionist families to “adopt” would-be converts, but still needs another 2,000.
Well over 300,000 new immigrants to Israel are not Jewish according to Halakhah [Jewish Law]. Some 30,000 of them have participated in the course of study to convert to Judaism, but only some 50 percent of those have actually completed the course and converted.
The rabbinical conversion courts require that each would-be convert and his/her family be escorted along the conversion process by a Torah-observant family. However, up until recently, the national-religious public was not aware of the need, and despite that sector’s pioneering volunteer spirit, the matter of helping would-be converts fell by the wayside.
To meet the need, the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption began a six-month campaign to recruit religious-Zionist families to the cause. The campaign included advertising, gatherings, informational literature, and the like – and scored significant success: The number of religious families who agreed to rally to the cause rose by several hundred, a 30% jump.
Some 2,000 families are still needed, however, just to meet the existing needs. It is assumed that even more immigrants would consider conversion if families were available to encourage and accompany them.
Chanukah: A Time for Spreading the Light
The Ministry is making yet another push for more families in honor of the upcoming Chanukah holiday. “Chanukah is a holiday when we take our light outside the home,” says Immigration Minister Sofa Landver. Referring to the commandment to “publicize the Chanukah miracles,” she added that we must “make public our homes’ light for all to see.”
“Nothing is more appropriate to the Chanukah atmosphere than to bring a ‘foreigner’ into our homes and have our light help illuminate his not-simple path of conversion,” Landver added.
Avigdor Leviatan, head of the Conversion Wing in the Ministry of Immigration, said, “The religious and non-religious publics view the non-Jewish immigrants as total foreigners, when in fact most of them are of Jewish descent, in many cases they have a Jewish father, and they view themselves as Jewish.”
“In general,” Leviatan said, “the religious public is not aware of the severe problem facing Israel in terms of the converts. The non-Jewish immigrants are wary of the conversion process, and the shortage in families to accompany them merely exacerbates the problem. We must think several steps ahead. If the situation remains the same, in several years the non-Jews will multiply and will become a significant portion of Israel’s population. This is liable to lead to the formation of two people who cannot intermarry, as well as assimilation. We must enlist all our forces to prevent this tragedy from happening.”
Rabbis Rally to the Cause
Rabbis Mordechai Eliyahu, Yaakov Ariel, Aharon Lichtenstein, Shlomo Aviner and Chaim Druckman have called on the religious-Zionist public to rally to the cause: “It is a great and holy obligation upon the communities to open their gates and the gates of their hearts to those who come from afar… We call upon religious-Zionist families to adopt immigrant families or singles during and after the conversion process, and to be a support for them.”