“And Ruth said, ‘Do not entreat me to leave you, to return from following you, for wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God.'” (Ruth 1:16)
Since last year, there has been a 35% increase in the number of immigrants who have made aliyah to Israel, with one of the largest groups of immigrants coming from war-torn Ukraine.
In light of the mass number of Ukrainian immigrants arriving to Israel, a new project called ‘Maslul’ was launched last weekend in Kiev’s Galitsky Synagogue, to help olim begin their conversion process before they actually make aliyah to Israel. In this way, olim will begin their conversion studies right in the country of origin.
“Our goal is to solve the problem of integration of immigrants from the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] before their Aliyah, in order to avoid the problem before its formation,” said Shalom Norman.
Norman is the director of the Triguboff Institute and initiator of ‘Maslul,’ which was established in cooperation with the Jewish Agency, the Midrasha Tzionit in Kiev and the local Jewish community in the Ukrainian capital.
The ‘Maslul’ program was established for those olim who are eligible for aliyah to Israel according to the law of return but are not recognized as Jewish according to halacha (Jewish religious law).
An amendment to the Law of Return in 1970 granted automatic Israeli citizenship to those whose fathers or grandfathers were Jewish, and who were married to Jews, or whose spouse was a child or grandchild of a Jew. Decades of Communist persecution against the Soviet Jewry led Israeli lawmakers to make this amendment to ensure that families would not be broken apart when making aliyah because of non-Jewish members, and to help non-Jews persecuted because of their Jewish roots.
Subsequently, many of these olim experience difficulties years later after making aliyah; for example, when they wish to marry in Israel. They often find themselves without the resources to meet the demands of the official state conversion process which includes 500 full hours of studying.
‘Maslul’ will offer a solution to such olim, by offering them the opportunity to utilize the time period before they make aliyah and accumulate the study hours during the 5 to 18-month period when they are making the necessary arrangements for the move to Israel.
According to the plan, delegates from the Jewish Agency will identify and direct proper candidates to the program, while Kiev’s Midrasha Tzionit will develop and lead the classes under the management of Rabbi Gershon Bloritzky. All this will be done in accordance with the official state conversion program in Israel. In addition, the ‘Shorashim’ program, which has offices in both Kiev and Dnepropetrovsk, will assist eligible olim in preparing the necessary documents indicating the status of their Jewish identity in Israel.
Both ‘Maslul’ and ‘Shorashim’ are projects funded by the Australian Jewish billionaire, Harry O. Triguboff, who is investing millions of dollars to help FSU Jews gain legal recognition as Jews in Israel through conversion or historical documentation.