Israel's chief rabbi calls to amend Law of Return to preserve country's Jewish identity

Rabbi David Landau urges conservative lawmakers to annul grandson clause after data show most immigrants arriving from post-Soviet states are not Jewish

Kobi Nachshoni|
Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Landau called on conservative lawmakers to amend the country’s Law of Return to reduce non-Jewish immigration into Israel.
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  • Speaking at the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries in New York, Landau advocated for the annulment of a clause in the law allowing grandchildren of Jews to make Aliyah and obtain Israeli citizenship.
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    הרב הראשי דוד לאו
    הרב הראשי דוד לאו
    Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Landau
    (Photo: Shlomi Cohen)
    The Law of Return gives Jews, or people with one or more Jewish grandparents, and their spouses the right to relocate to Israel and acquire Israeli citizenship.
    "Ten years ago, I asked to try to change this mistake of the third generation in the Law of Return, to correct it, in order to preserve the State of Israel as a Jewish state and the state of the Jews," he said.
    Against the backdrop of the conservative-religious bloc’s recent election triumph, Landau offered a prayer that "the will of The Lord will be in our hands".
    The chief rabbi also holds a judicial post as the president of the Great Rabbinical Court of Appeals in Jerusalem.
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    הרב דוד לאו פליטים
    הרב דוד לאו פליטים
    Rabbi Landau visits Ukrainian refugees
    (Photo: EPA)
    His words come as Prime Minister-Designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud is locked in heated coalition horse-trading with the ultra-Orthodox parties over the sensitive issue.
    Landau joins his Sephardic counterpart Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef who last week also called for the High Court of Justice to revise and override the grandson clause.
    Last week, new data published by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) showed that almost three out of every four inbound immigrants from post-Soviet states under the Law of Return in 2020 were not Jewish.
    The Knesset’s Research and Information Center tabled a comprehensive report on immigration from post-Soviet countries since the fall of the USSR in the early 1990s after the leaders of the emerging right-wing government expressed their intention to amend the sensitive law and reopen the question of who counts as Jewish in the eyes of the State of Israel.
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    פליטים מאוקראינה בנמל התעופה בן גוריון
    פליטים מאוקראינה בנמל התעופה בן גוריון
    Ukrainian refugees arrive at Ben Gurion Airport
    (Photo: Dana Kopel)
    CBS data show that over three decades the percentage of Jews among immigrants dropped steadily, from 93% in 1990 to only 28% in 2020.
    A total of 1,124,822 people immigrated to Israel during that period — 64% of them Jewish according to Jewish law, that is, either born to a Jewish mother or converted to Judaism.
    The number of non-Jewish immigrants stood at 402,797, and together with their descendants born in Israel, and excluding those who have passed away in the meantime or left Israel, the number of immigrants who reported having no religious affiliation and ex-Soviet citizens in Israel stands at about half a million people.
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