Joining the Jewish People: Non-Jewish Immigrants from the Former USSR, Israeli Identity and Jewish Peoplehood

Alexander Yakobson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Law of Return grants every Jew the right to immigrate to Israel; this also applies to non-Jewish relatives of Jews. The Citizenship Law grants every such “returnee” automatic citizenship. The wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union in the 90s brought a large number of immigrants not considered Jewish under the definition accepted in Israel. Is this large group of Israeli citizens—who do not, at least formally, belong to the Jewish people—an emerging second substantial national minority in Israel? This Article argues that regardless of formal definitions based on Orthodox religious law under which a religious conversion is the only way for a non-Jew to become Jewish, these immigrants, through their successful social and cultural integration in the Hebrew-speaking Jewish society in Israel, are joining, de facto, the Jewish people. It is no longer true that religious conversion is the only way to join the Jewish people.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)218-239
Number of pages22
JournalIsrael Law Review
Volume43
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2010

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