Letter from the Jewish Agency clarifying the position of Progressive converts who wish to make Aliyah:
A few weeks ago Beit Emanuel reported on a panel discussion about conversion held during Shavuot. The report quoted Rabbi Shaked as claiming that Israel has no clear mandate for the acceptance of Progressive converts for Aliya and that ”a yes or a no depends on the whims of the Jewish Agency official doing the interviewing”.
We would like to express our disappointment over that claim, and clarify that all Jewish Agency officials act according to the clear legislation of the “Law of Return” (1950), and that any Jew is welcome to address us and to acquire the right given by birth or by conversion for Aliya. The Progressive proof of Jewishness is respected and is as valid for us as any other Jewish document. There has not been, nor will there be, any discrimination made by us on the basis of denomination.
Yehuda Sharf, Director Aliyah, Absorption and Special Operations, Jewish Agency for Israel
Aviad Sela, Director Israel Centre, South Africa
Response from Rabbi Shaked:
I would like to apologise for misrepresenting the official position of the Jewish Agency on the acceptance of Progressive conversion in South Africa. The Jewish Agency has assured us that they follow a procedure that is informed by the Law of Return, and that there never has been, nor ever will be, discrimination against Jews converted by the Progressive movement.
There was no intention of offending the diligent staff of the Jewish Agency. It is clearly in the interest of Beit Emanuel to work in a close and constructive relationship with the Jewish Agency.