Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef [sephardic] recently alleged that the aliyah to Israel of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are not Jewish according to Jewish law was a conspiracy by the state to negate the electoral strength of the ultra-Orthodox community.
At a rabbinical conference last week, Yosef said that “hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands of non-Jews came to Israel,” under the terms of the Law of Return.
“There are many, many non-Jews here, some of the are Communist, enemies of religion, haters of religion. They are not Jewish at all, [they are] non-Jews,” said Yosef.
“Afterwards they vote for parties who incite against the ultra-Orthodox and against religion.”
Yosef went on to claim that these immigrants “were brought to Israel so that they would be a counterweight to the ultra-Orthodox, so that when there are elections there won’t be many [Knesset seats] for the ultra-Orthodox. That’s why they were brought to Israel, total non-Jews, really completely non-Jews.”
In the mass immigration from the former Soviet Union to Israel in the 1990s following the collapse of the Communist regime, just over one million people made aliyah under the Law of Return, some 307,000 of whom were not born to a Jewish mother, meaning they were not Jewish according to Jewish law.
Under the Law of Return, the spouse, child or grandchild of Jewish Jew is granted citizenship in the State of Israel under the so-called “grandchild clause.”
Today there are between 400,000 to 425,000 immigrants or children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are not Jewish according to Jewish law.
Yosef’s comments were lambasted by numerous public figures
Head of the Yisrael Beytenu party Avigdor Liberman, whose electorate is comprised in the main of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, said the chief rabbi’s comments were “racist” and “antisemitic” and called for him to be suspended.
“We are demanding his immediate suspension and will work in the future so that a chief rabbi from the religious-Zionist community will be elected who will know to include and embrace and not to divide,” said Liberman.
He also called on all other party heads to condemn Yosef’s comments.
Head of the ITIM organization and co-founder of the Giyur Kahalacha network of independent, Orthodox conversion courts Rabbi Seth Farber said Yosef had “cast aspersions on the Jewish people and distanced people from Judaism,” and that his comments were “a mortal blow to our social cohesion as a people.”
The Gesher organization said that “It is sad that the chief rabbi whose job is to connect all sectors of the people to religion and tradition acts without sensitivity or respect, and perpetuates erroneous stigmas and prejudices.”