A South London synagogue has rallied to the support of a family of black converts who have waited two years for approval to make aliyah.
Carl and Maleka Levy were recently told by Israel’s Ministry of Interior that they must fly out to Israel to attend an official hearing to prove their Jewish credentials.
Now Bromley Synagogue, which the Levys and their five daughters attend, has agreed to underwrite the cost of the couple’s trip to Israel in order to state their case.
The Levys, who were converted by the Reform Beth Din five years ago, had planned to move to Ashkelon in August 2007. But despite testimonials from Reform rabbis, they have been unable to persuade the ministry to approve their application for aliyah.
Members of Bromley Synagogue have also collected a petition on the family’s behalf which is due to be presented shortly to the Israeli Embassy.
Bromley’s rabbi, Tony Hammond, said that the ministry’s demand for the Levys to attend a hearing in Israel had been “sprung on them. Usually, people in their position aren’t asked to do this. I wonder whether there is not some colour prejudice here.”
The ministry is said to harbour concerns that six years ago Mrs Levy came to Israel to have her fourth daughter, Shlomeet, at a natural birth clinic in Dimona. The clinic was run by the Black Hebrews sect, which is not recognised as Jewish, but Mrs Levy has repeatedly denied any connection with the group and says that the clinic was recommended by a friend who knew of her preference for natural birth.
Rabbi Hammond said: “We have no doubt that they are kosher Jews who want to make aliyah as many Jews do and have.”
Mrs Levy said she and her husband, who will be travelling with their youngest daughter, Ahliyah, two, while the other children are looked after at home, said: “We wouldn’t have been able to go if we didn’t have the support of our synagogue and our rabbi. Every time we speak to him, we are grateful for his help.”
Israel’s Supreme Court has upheld the right of the ministry to request a hearing.
Anat Hoffman, director of the Israel Religious Action Centre, which took the Levys’ case to court, said: “Applications for aliyah are processed daily by the Jewish Agency and various Israeli embassies. Therefore, it is not clear why the state is making the unusual demand that this family come to Israel in person for their hearing — especially when it is obviously very costly and an unfair financial burden. This decision is yet another indicator of the discriminatory attitude with which the state of Israel treats Afro-American converts.”
She added: “Having said this, we respect the court’s decision that the Levys must be present in Israel for their hearing. Our congregations in Israel and abroad will do our very best to help them and accompany them to fight for their right to aliyah.”