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Russian Jewish immigrants to Israel face an absurd situation. In Russia, their identity cards marked them as Jewish, and they experienced anti-Semitism in their professional and personal lives. They were reminded of their Jewishness on a regular basis, whether they liked it or not.
But once they get to Israel, if they can’t confirm that their mother was Jewish, they are viewed as non-Jews–and must face a laborious conversion process to be considered as Jews. The conversion process is controlled by the Orthodox religious monopoly, which demands these “non-Jews” adopt a traditional Orthodox lifestyle. Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist conversions are not officially recognized. The rationale for such a restrictive, demanding system is that “Non-religious converts, even if their conversions were performed by Jewish organizations, will not adapt, will not become acclimatized, and will lead to a future trail of separations and tragedies,” says Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, a rabbi for the conversion courts. But Rosen, like most arbiters of Jewishness in Israel, ignores the fact that half of Israelis consider themselves secular, and even the majority of those who consider themselves “traditional” are flexible about the rules of Shabbat.
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