In the months after the war in the North last summer, a new trend has arisen: More and more new immigrants have turned to religion and are asking to officially “convert” to Judaism.
From teens, students to senior citizens, hundreds of new immigrants have asked the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption to begin studying the Jewish faith and “officially” join the Jewish people. The classes are required by Israel’s religious in order to convert, and are conducted by the Center for Jewish Education in the Immigrant Absorption Ministry.
There are more than 300,000 immigrants who came to Israel from former Soviet republics in accordance with the Law of Return, but are not considered Jewish by the religious laws. They make up about 30 percent of all immigrants to Israel. Every year, 3,000 additional children are born to these families, thus expanding the circle of the non-Jewish population.
According to figures released by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, immigrant conversion to Judaism is significantly higher this year compared to the same period last year. Between September and January 2006, more than 300 immigrants were enrolled in conversion classes and 14 new classes were opened especially for them. During the same period in 2005, only 6 classes were opened, accommodating 110 immigrant students.
In 2006, 2,200 immigrants converted in Israel, compared with 1,950 who were converted in 2005.
The immigrant population in the North is 290,000, of whom 250,000 were living in the line of fire during the war.
“It is not surprising that there is an awakening among immigrants in the North to convert,” said Minister of Immigrant Absorption Ze’ev Boim. “It is easy to assume that the reality that the residents of the North, and the immigrants among them, caused a feeling of a common destiny and a stronger and braver connection with the State of Israel. I praise willingness of the immigrants to go through this process. The ministry will provide all that is necessary for them to fulfill it.”