False Jewish Conversions Help Venezuelans Enter Israel
The Israeli community of Venezuela told reporters on Wednesday that they were going to investigate the irregularities that have aroused in the process of religious conversion to the Jewish faith in Venezuela. Since they have reasons to believe that some of the recent Jewish converts have been converting mainly as a way to immigrate to Israel.
The Venezuelan newspaper El Universal stated that Pynchas Brener, the head rabbi at the Israeli Union of Caracas, told reporters that he knew nothing of the false conversions and that they had been done in a “clandestine” manner. Brener also stated that he did not know both the man detained by the Israeli immigration police at the Tel Aviv airport or the rabbi accused of authorizing and verifying the conversions. El Nacional, another Venezuelan newspaper, has also reported that Brener stressed that the man detained at the airport was not a member of the Venezuelan Jewish community and that the community “was already investigating the case.”
It is believed that in the past few years around 200 Venezuelans have immigrated to the state of Israel with the help of these fake conversions. The man detained in Tel Aviv was one of the Latin America representatives for the Jewish Agency, a state owned organization that is dedicated to promoting emigration to Israel. The Jewish Agency representative is accused of aiding the Venezuelan citizens regardless of the fact that he knew that they had undergone a bogus conversion to Judaism.
The detained employee of the Jewish Agency has already confessed to authorities about his role in the operation. The police have also told the Israeli journal Haaretz that the detained employee even “knew the Rabbi who converted the Venezuelans was suspect.”The detained employee further stated that his actions were purely to gain favor with his employer. Haaretz would go on to say that the detained employee wanted to be seen as an efficient worker that brought large groups of immigrants to Israel. The Jerusalem Post further reported that the detained employee denied having received any monetary compensation from the Venezuelans that he helped emigrate to Israel. Claiming that the main incentive for him was the fact that the Jewish Agency evaluates its employees according to the number of immigrants that they successfully bring. A policy that the former Absorption Minister of Israel, Yuli Edelstein, is a critic of as he stated that “"the Jewish Agency must find a better way to motivate their envoys and not encourage a quota system."
Both El Universal and Haaretz have also stated that most of the false Venezuelan converts were of indigenous descent, and were convinced to “convert” due to the economic help that the Jewish Agency and state promises to give Jews who immigrate to Israel. El Universal reported that most of the Venezuelan Jews that have immigrated to Israel live in the city of Ramle. A lot, however, have returned to Venezuela. The Venezuelan Jewish community numbers around 15,000 and most who have left under the current Venezuelan administration have moved to the United States rather than Israel.
The Israeli authorities are currently investigating both the Absorption and Interior Ministries of Israel. These are the ministries that handle the approval of Jewish immigrants to Israel. The police are doing this in order to understand how government officials did not notice that they were dealing with false converts.
Due to the “Law of Return” members of the Jewish faith through out the world can immigrate to Israel and obtain citizenship. This is applicable to those who are either born Jewish or have gone through a process of conversion that is certified by a rabbi. The Jewish Agency has thus called for the investigation of the rabbi in Venezuela who certified the validity of the converts.
Tags: Venezuela , Israel , Immigration , Rabbi , Jewish Community , Caracas , Tel Aviv , Airport , Jewish Agency
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