In a blow to the unity of the Jewish people, Israel’s Interior Ministry last week rejected the aliyah application of Kibita Yosef, a member of the Abayudaya Jewish community of Uganda, currently in Israel as a volunteer on a kibbutz. Explaining its May 31 refusal, a ministry spokesperson reportedly stated, “This is a matter of principle regarding conversions in this community — it is not about one specific applicant.” But such a statement amounts to a de facto dismissal of the legitimacy of the 2,500-strong community that has been practicing Judaism for a century.
It is outrageous, disrespectful and very possibly unlawful for the Interior Ministry to reject the validity of conversions performed abroad by a major Jewish movement. The Abayudaya Community are members of Masorti Olami (World Council of Conservative/Masorti Synagogues).
This decision reverses over two decades of government policy that has conferred Jewish status for purposes of immigration and citizenship on those who convert abroad through a major Jewish movement. It is not only an affront to the Abayudaya, but also to the entire worldwide Conservative/Masorti movement.
This announcement comes on the heels of other hostile acts from the government toward African converts to Judaism, including the government’s forced deportation last December of Yehuda Kimani, who arrived in Israel with a valid visa to study at The Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
Israel should be home to the entirety of the Jewish people, and not cede to sectarianism or to the whim of whichever political parties or chief rabbis happen to be in power at the time. We stand with Kibita Yosef, the Abayudaya member whose application for permanent status under the Law of Return triggered the Interior Ministry’s verdict. He is a Zionist just as we are Zionists. He is a Jew entitled to Israeli citizenship, just as we are, and we will support his appeal of this decision to Israel’s High Court of Justice.
We stand with all the Jewish Abayudaya people and all our Jewish communities of Africa and the world. And we demand that the Interior Ministry reverse its decision immediately and accept Kibita Yosef's aliyah. Moving forward, we are committed to using all means at our disposal to achieve this result for him, and for all the other Kibita Yosefs in the world waiting to make aliyah.
Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs
Jewish Educators Assembly
Jewish Theological Seminary
North American Association of Synagogue Executives
Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano
The Schechter Institutes, Inc.
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Women’s League for Conservative Judaism
Zacharias Frankel College
Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies