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Rufeisen v Minister of the Interior (1962)

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The Law of Return is an Israeli law, passed on 5 July 1950, which gives Jews the right to relocate to Israel and acquire Israeli citizenship.[1] Section 1 of the Law of Return declares that “every Jew has the right to come to this country as an oleh [immigrant]”. In the Law of Return, the State of Israel gave effect to the Zionist movement’s “credo” which called for the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state. In 1970, the right of entry and settlement was extended to people with one Jewish grandparent and a person who is married to a Jew, whether or not they are considered Jewish under Orthodox interpretations of Jewish Law.[2]

On the day of arrival in Israel, or occasionally at a later date, a person who enters Israel under the Law of Return as an oleh would receive a certificate confirming their oleh status. The person then has three months to decide whether they wish to become a citizen and can renounce citizenship during this time. The right to an oleh certificate may be denied if the person is engaged in an anti-Jewish activity, is a hazard to the public health or security of the State, or has a criminal past that may endanger public welfare.[3]

This article explores the intriguing historical event, how before the 1970 amendment to the Law, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled on the borders of who is a “Jew”. The Supreme Court went as far as to reject outright the argument made today subsequently to the amendment, that Judaism and being part of the Jewish people are two different things. Hence, in its verdict, the Supreme Court rejected the right of a Jew who had converted to Christianity to receive Israeli citizenship via the Law of Return.

Jumping right into our historical context, the pivotal figure, in this case, was Shmuel Oswald Rufeisen (1922–1998), better known as Brother (or Father) Daniel, O.C.D., a Polish-born Jew who survived the Nazi invasion of his homeland. During WWII, he converted to Christianity, becoming a Catholic and a friar of the Discalced Carmelite Order. Rufeisen was born to a Jewish family in Zadziele near the Polish town of Oświęcim, known in German as Auschwitz.[4] During his youth, he belonged to Bnei Akiva, a religious Zionist youth........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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