Rabbinical Assembly Calls on Israel to Admit Yehuda Kimani on Student Visa

The Kenyan Jewish leader has been denied entry to Israel twice, despite having been converted by Conservative rabbis.

The Rabbinical Assembly, the world-wide body representing Conservative/Masorti movement rabbis, issued the following statement after Yehuda Kimani, the Kenyan Jewish leader, was denied entry to Israel and instead deported, despite his possession of a valid visa signed by the Israeli ambassador to Nairobi:

Israel's continued refusal to admit Yehuda Kimani in order to study at a Conservative movement yeshiva in Jerusalem represents an affront to both Kimani and non-Orthodox communities. Kimani, a Kenyan Jewish leader who was converted by the Conservative movement, has been denied the student visa that he needs to come to Israel for a four-month program. Instead, he has been told that he can apply for a three-month tourist visa, which would not cover the length of his academic program.

Kimani has faced great obstacles in trying to come to Israel, the homeland and birthright of the Jewish people. Last December, he was detained at Ben-Gurion Airport and deported, despite having a valid visa signed personally by the Israeli ambassador to Nairobi. At the time, Amos Arbel, director of the Israeli Population Registry and Status Department reportedly said, "...to us, he is a goy from Kenya."

Kimani is a Jew, converted to our religion by Conservative rabbis, and is eligible to become a citizen of Israel according to the country's own Law of Return. He belongs to a group - the Abayudaya from Uganda - that is recognized as a Jewish community by the Jewish Agency for Israel. As such, he is eligible to live in or visit Israel at any time and is certainly entitled to a student visa to study at one of our movement's yeshivot in Israel, a right that the Interior Ministry conditions on Jewish status.

Kimani's struggles are yet another instance in which non-Orthodox communities have been degraded and denied equal status in Israel, which should instead be welcoming to all Jewish movements and people.

Conservative conversions are valid under Israel's own laws, for the purpose of study, immigration and citizenship. The Interior Ministry should immediately grant Kimani a student visa, so that he can visit and learn in our Holy City and continue to grow in his Jewish identity.