Masorti Matters Blog
Gideon Aronoff, Executive Director, Masorti Foundation
Many in Israel and around the world have closely followed the case of Yosef Kibita, a Ugandan Jew who has been waging an intense legal struggle to make Aliyah since 2018. He has faced tremendous opposition from the Interior Ministry, but, supported by the Masorti (Conservative) Movement of Israel, the Israel Religious Action Center and others he fights on to make his home in the Jewish State. Just weeks before he again faces deportation, Yosef suffered another blow from the Ministry.
Most recently, Yosef, who was already Jewish, was converted again by a Masorti religious court. He did this to comply with an 8-1 decision in March by the Supreme Court, which ruled that Conservative and Reform Conversions in Israel must be recognized for purposes of Aliyah and the Law of Return. Because of Yosef’s long connection to Jewish communal life in Uganda and Israel, the Masorti court did not mandate a new and extended period of study as part of Yosef’s conversion process.
Nicole Maor, Yosef’s lawyer and director of the Legal Aid Center for Olim at IRAC, noted that Yosef lives on the Conservative Movement-affiliated Kibbutz Ketura in the Negev and is an active member of the Jewish community. “No Conservative community, anywhere in the world, would dream of demanding that he participate in a more formal study program as a condition for his ‘re-conversion, Yosef is Jewish. He has lived all his life as a Jew. He studied in a Jewish school and received an exclusively Jewish education. His knowledge of Judaism was tested twice by a recognized Beit Din of the Conservative movement that visited his community in Uganda.”
Rabbi Andrew Sacks, director of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement in Israel, declared, “In a continued effort to stymie the Aliyah of Jews of Color from so-called ‘emerging communities,’ Israel’s Interior Ministry has shown contempt for the Conservative movement, for our converts, for the judicial process, and for the very rules it helped enact. Yosef Kibita had undergone a valid conversion in Uganda. At the suggestion of the court, he underwent an additional conversion in Israel. Now that, too, has been rejected. Even more egregious, the ruling was issued only weeks before Yosef’s visa is set to expire.”
The Masorti Foundation joins all of Yosef’s defenders in Israel protesting this latest decision by the Interior Ministry as an affront to the vision of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, wherever they were born and with whichever stream of Judaism they identify. Someone who passionately loves Israel the way Yosef does deserves much better. He, and others converted by the Masorti Movement, should be viewed as a tremendous asset for the State of Israel and the global Jewish community. Read an Opinion piece by new Jewish Pluralism Watch director, Sharon Banyan Primor on the situation for Masorti conversions.
Watch this space.