Israel denies Right of Return for Swiss rabbi

Interior Ministry says it does not recognize Rabbi Zsolt Balkanyi's conversion although his being Jewish was authorized by a rabbi they do accept; 'conversion is a spiritual awakening, not just a religious change' Balkanyi-Keller says
Rabbi Zsolt Balkanyi-Keller, the director of the Jewish school in Zurich and a rabbi in the Swiss army was prevented from immigrating to Israel under the Law of Return after the Interior Ministry refused to recognize his conversion to the Jewish faith.
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Rabbi Balkanyi-Keller, 40, converted to Judaism in 2014 under the authority of a Swiss rabbi according to Israeli law in accordance with the Law of Return. But the conversion itself was not recognized by the Rabbinical authority in Israel although it was authorized by a rabbi they did accept.
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Zsolt Keller
Zsolt Keller
Rabbi Zsolt Balkanyi Keller
Balkanyi-Keller's conversion is recognized by many of the leading Orthodox Rabbis including the head of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt and according to Jewish law. Despite Rabbi Goldschmidt's endorsement, the Interior Ministry rejected Balkanyi-Keller's request to immigrate to Israel.
Following the refusal, the ITIM organization, a non-profit that assists people facing the religious establishment, plans to file an appeal with the Israeli Supreme Court. They argued that the decision by the ministry was incorrect and infringed on Balkanyi-Keller's right to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return. "The rabbinate does not recognize the Beit Din in Zurich, but this does not mean that Mr. Koller's conversion would not have been recognized by the rabbinate if it had been examined on a case-by-case basis," they explained.
The case of Balkanyi-Keller is not unique. Instances of converts not being recognized by rabbinate and then rejected by the Interior Ministry which has been mostly under the control of the Ultra-Orthodox Shas Party for more than a decade, are not uncommon. In the past, the ministry rejected requests from Jews who underwent conversion in other countries, claiming they were not conducted in accordance with Jewish Orthodox law. A ruling in the matter of Balkanyi-Keller could determine the ministry's practice, going forward.
"Conversion is an internal process, not just a formal one," Balkanyi-Keller said in response to his request to immigrate being rejected. "I believe that conversion is a spiritual awakening, not just a religious change. The State of Israel should be open to every Jew, no matter where they underwent their conversion."
"We support the right of Rabbi Zsolt Balkanyi Keller for immigration to Israel," Rabbi Seth Farber, founder of ITIM said. "At a time when Israel’s relationship to the diaspora communities is weakening, denying the rights of a rabbi who is unquestionably and halachically Jewish, and even has validated his Jewishness in the rabbinical courts is unjustifiable. ITIM recognizes the complexities that the interior ministry faces when certifying conversions but the policy of making converts feel like second class Jews must cease immediately."
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