World: 72% 2020 olim from former Soviet countries weren’t Jewish by Israeli law

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 Russian immigrants (Olim) attend an event marking the 25th anniversary of the great Russian Aliya, immigration, from the former Soviet Union to Israel, at the Jerusalem Convention Center, on December 24, 2015. © (photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90) Russian immigrants (Olim) attend an event marking the 25th anniversary of the great Russian Aliya, immigration, from the former Soviet Union to Israel, at the Jerusalem Convention Center, on December 24, 2015.

Only 28% of Former Soviet Union (FSU) olim in 2020 were considered “Jewish,” according to Israel’s Law of Return, a new report revealed. According to a report by the Knesset Research and Information Center (RIC). According to the report, which was published exclusively by Ynet, three out of four immigrants who made aliyah during 2020 are not Jewish. According to the data, those 72% of olim, came to Israel as descendants of Jews and are not Jews themselves according to the definition of the law. According to Israel’s Law of Return, any Jew can make aliyah and become an Israeli citizen yet those who have at least one Jewish grandparent can also make aliyah based on their connection to a Jew. The Grandparent Clause was added to the law in 1970.

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In addition, according to government data, between the years 1990 to 2020, 36% of the olim were not considered Jewish. In 1990 only 93.1% of FSU olim were considered as Jews as opposed to 28.3% in 2020.

Another interesting fact is that between 2008 to 2020, 99,807 FSU olim arrived in Israel. During those years, only 16,197 FSU olim converted through one of the official conversion programs to Judaism by Israel’s government or through the IDF conversion program. This data isn’t totally parallel, but according to these numbers, only about 16% of olim during these years converted to Judaism.

“Only about one-out-of ten FSU olim converted to Judaism,” said Dr. Netantel Fisher, Head of the Department of Public Policy at the Academic Center for Law and Science. Fisher is an expert on immigration and conversion and drafted the previous government's conversion bill under former religious affairs minister MK Matan Kahana. “We need to create a package deal: Conversion should be made easier, but at the same time, non-Jewish immigration should be reduced. Otherwise, nothing will change,” Fisher told The Jerusalem Post.

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“Those who think that conversion should be made easier, like me, understand that it will be almost impossible to bridge this gap of half-a-million Israelis that aren’t considered Jewish,” Fisher explained. “We must make an amendment to the Law of Return and limit the non-Jewish immigration. On the other hand, we must increase the possibilities of conversion and this coalition can do so.”

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He added that the large numbers of non-Jewish olim is mainly a result of “the situation in most diaspora communities. Almost every Jew in the diaspora has a relative that isn’t Jewish. Israelis are not that familiar with this situation.”

Jerusalem Post data about FSU olim

According to data obtained by the Post, about 20% of the olim from FSU countries in the past decade aren’t Jewish and were able to make aliyah since one of their grandparents wasn’t Jewish. They used the ability to prove a connection to Judaism according to the Grandparent Clause. This date was approved by Nativ - the Israeli governmental liaison organization that is in charge of checking the eligibility for aliyah from former Soviet Union countries. Nativ wouldn’t give any other details about the numbers of Jewish or non-Jewish olim between 2001 to 2011. In addition, none of the Israeli entities agreed to share this information: Nativ, the Aliyah and Absorption Ministry and the Israeli Population and Immigration Authority. Asked by the Post how many of the tens of thousands of FSU olim in 2022 were Jewish, none of these three government bodies agreed to supply the information. The Israeli Population and Immigration Authority said that the information on these matters should be at the Aliyah and Absorption Ministry but a spokesperson for the ministry said that Nativ are the ones with the data. Nativ sent the Post to the Aliyah and Absorption Ministry.

According to a document that was leaked from the Population and Immigration Authority, only 56% percent of all olim between 2016 to 2021 were Jewish. Only 34.3% of the Russian olim and 30% of the Ukrainian olim during these years are considered Jewish. Yet from Western countries, the situation is very different: 93/7% of olim from the US 93.7 % are considered Jewish.

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