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October 22, 2015 12:38 pm

New Organization Helps Ukrainian Jews Make Smooth Aliyah to Israel

avatar by Anav Silverman / Tazpit News Agency

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IFCJ's Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein with Jewish students in Ukraine. Photo: IFCJ/Eva Geller.

IFCJ’s Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein with Jewish students in Ukraine. Photo: IFCJ/Eva Geller.

KIEV – Since last year, there has been a 35% increase in the number of immigrants who have made aliyah to Israel — and one of the largest groups of immigrants has come from war-torn Ukraine.

In light of the mass Ukranian migration to Israel, a new project called “Maslul” was launched last weekend at Kiev’s Galitsky Synagogue to help olim (immigrants) begin their conversion process before they actually make aliyah to Israel.

“Our goal is to solve the problem of integration of immigrants from the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] before their aliyah, in order to avoid [any problems] before [their] formation,” said Shalom Norman.

Norman is the director of the Triguboff Institute, and the man who initiated  “Maslul,” which was established in cooperation with the Jewish Agency, the Midrasha Tzionit in Kiev, and the local Jewish community in the Ukrainian capital.

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The “Maslul” program was established for those olim who are eligible for aliyah to Israel according to the law of return, but are not recognized as Jewish according to halacha (Jewish religious law).

An amendment to the Law of Return in 1970 granted automatic Israeli citizenship to those whose fathers or grandfathers were Jewish, and who were married to Jews, or whose spouse was a child or grandchild of a Jew. Decades of Communist persecution against the Soviet Jewry led Israeli lawmakers to make this amendment to ensure that families would not be broken apart when making aliyah because of non-Jewish members, and to help non-Jews persecuted because of their Jewish roots.

Subsequently, many of these olim experience difficulties years after making aliyah; for example, when they wish to marry in Israel, they often find themselves without the resources to meet the demands of the official state conversion process, which includes 500 full hours of studying.

“Maslul” will offer a solution to such olim, by offering them the opportunity to utilize the time period before they make aliyah and accumulate the study hours then.

According to the plan, delegates from the Jewish Agency will identify and direct proper candidates to the program, while Kiev’s Midrasha Tzionit will develop and lead the classes under the management of Rabbi Gershon Bloritzky.  All this will be done in accordance with the official state conversion program in Israel. In addition, the “Shorashim” program, which has offices in both Kiev and Dnepropetrovsk, will assist eligible olim in preparing the necessary documents indicating the status of their Jewish identity in Israel.

Both “Maslul” and “Shorashim” are projects funded by the Australian Jewish billionaire Harry O. Triguboff, who is investing millions of dollars to help Jews from former Soviet lands gain legal recognition as Jews in Israel through conversion or historical documentation.

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