Making aliyah has been considered the universal birthright of every Jew worldwide since Israel became recognized as a state. The Law of Return has encompassed people who have at least one Jewish grandparent and their family members. So long as you would’ve been persecuted under Nuremberg Laws, you meet the basic eligibility requirements to immigrate to Israel.
If you are planning on making aliyah with your family, you should be aware of changes to the Law of Return that are currently in development. These changes relate to the Family Member Clause of the law of return and limited family members’ rights.
Who Is Currently an Eligible Family Member
Under the Law of the Return, a “family member” constitutes the child of a Jew, grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of an individual who is a child of a Jew, or the spouse of an individual who is a grandchild of a Jew. Non-Jews are allowed to immigrate to Israel if they are eligible family members of a Jew but the law restricts this right from individuals who were once Jewish then willfully converted to another religion.
While this part of the law still exists, it is now vague as to who is and isn’t allowed to make aliyah now based on conversion as well as whether or not you are a Messianic Jew.
Messianic Jews and Hebrew Christians
Because Messianic Jews and Christians are not considered Jewish by definition of the Law of Return, children, grandchildren, and spouses of Messianic Jews aren’t allowed to immigrate. However, it was found in Streckback v. the Interior Ministry that Messianic Jews are in fact entitled to make aliyah providing that they do not have a Jewish mother. Therefore, if a Messianic Jew’s mother became Messianic before they were born, they wouldn’t be considered to have a Jewish mother and therefore not considered a Jew under the Law of Return. But regardless of whether the applicant has a Jewish mother or converted to Judaism, the Interior Ministry has denied a majority of applications submitted by Messianic Jews and Hebrew Christians. Even though the Streckback case has been cited, the applications continue to be denied either at the outset or once the Ministry finds out that the applicants are Messianic.
However, Messianic Jews are not the only group who have faced issues with trying to make aliyah.
Recent Changes to the Law of Return
The Movement for Progressive Judaism petitioned the Supreme Court to grant citizenship to Jewish grandchildren whose mothers may have converted, citing the Law of Return entitles them to do so even if the child wasn’t necessarily raised Jewish. In the Jane Doe Case that petitioned, the ministry ignored the Law of Return in denying their application because the child’s mother married a Muslim, converted to Islam, and raised her children with Muslim values.
The Supreme Court is planning to adopt an essential interpretation of the Law of Return that claims the objective of the law is to allow Jews to return to the land of their fathers along with their family members, with the hope that the family members will return to the Jewish faith. This caused the Jane Doe Case to set a precedent that the Ministry is continuing to apply even if it directly conflicts the law.
What This Could Mean For You or Your Family
In the political and economic upheaval being experienced worldwide, many Jewish families are looking to make aliyah to seek asylum or a chance at a better life. Since it is not an easy process to undergo whether you plan to immigrate by yourself or with your family, it’s important to determine whether or not you would be considered an eligible family member under the law if you are not a practicing Jew and/or can prove you were raised Jewish. The precedents that the Jane Doe Case and other family member clause cases have set are making the aliyah process even more difficult.
Since the Ministry examines family members on a case-by-case basis, non-Jewish applicants who are the descendants of Jews are determined on a case-by-case basis. If this describes you, your application could be denied even if it’s in direct contradiction of the Law of Return and you would otherwise be eligible such as if you marry a non-Jew and are not raising your children Jewish. You can be put at risk for having your application denied.
If you feel that making aliyah is the right thing to do, you should still try to go through with the process. Just be aware that these recent developments have made it more difficult.
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