Israel Deports Some Converted Immigrants

State Rejects Haredi Rabbis' Conversions to Judaism

By Nathan Jeffay

Published December 17, 2011, issue of December 23, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Within the next few weeks Martina Ragachova could be deported from Israel — for being too frum.

Not Jewish Enough: Martina Ragachova is facing deportation from Israel because her conversion to Judaism has been rejected.
Not Jewish Enough: Martina Ragachova is facing deportation from Israel because her conversion to Judaism has been rejected.

Prague-born Ragachova, 37, moved to Israel a decade ago, and in 2004 converted to Judaism in the Bnei Brak rabbinic court of Nissim Karelitz, one of the world’s best-respected and most stringent Haredi rabbis. Karelitz was so moved by the genuineness of her commitment to Judaism that he knelt before her by way of congratulation.

Prior to this ultra-Orthodox conversion, Ragachova had applied to become Jewish in the modern-Orthodox state-run conversion courts. But they did not accept her application. So she took the private Haredi track.

She now has a conversion certificate that is accepted by virtually every rabbi in the world, in contrast to the state conversion she originally applied for, which is viewed with skepticism by large sections of the Orthodox community. But because she took her conversion into her own hands, Israel’s state rabbinate and Interior Ministry insist that she is not Jewish.

This means she cannot marry in Israel. When it comes to weddings performed in-country, the government recognizes only religious marriages. And for Jews, this means weddings officiated by Orthodox rabbis between individuals the government recognizes as Jews.

More immediately, it means that she could be deported because the Interior Ministry doesn’t consider her Jewish and will not grant her citizenship.

Until now, Ragachova has avoided deportation thanks to an injunction she obtained by going to court. Early next year, the Supreme Court will hear her case along with those of others in her situation.

If the court forces the state to recognize her conversion, as she is asking, the state’s monopoly on conversion will be over. If she is deported, there will be outrage in the Haredi community, which will see the ruling as an insult to one of its leading scholars.

“The conversion I passed is acceptable in every country in the world apart from Israel. It’s an absurd situation,” Ragachova told the Forward. She complained that she has been in limbo since her conversion due to her lack of citizenship. Until the court first considered her case in November, her lack of citizenship prevented her from working under the law. The temporary injunction she obtained now allows her to work during her case’s legal proceedings.

Ragachova’s case highlights a strange situation that has come about in Israel: Haredi conversion has become a relatively easy option for some who are prepared to follow an extra-stringent observant lifestyle.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.