The Population and Immigration Authority is to deport a Swedish citizen who requested to immigrate to Israel by virtue of the Law of Return.
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The woman is the daughter of a Jewish father who was a Holocaust survivor. The Authority said it rejected the woman’s application because her father converted and she herself belongs to a missionary organization.
The woman, Rebecca Floer, 64, denies the authority’s claim. She says her father never converted or denied his Judaism and she does not belong to the missionary organization, but rather appeared one time, as a Jewish psychologist, at that group’s event. Floer said she was baptized as a child but left the church and considers herself as Jewish.
Floer first visited Israel 10 years ago. Over the past three years she has lived alternately in Sweden and in the northern town of Poriya. She first came to Israel on a tourist visa. She continued making her living as a psychologist in Gothenburg, Sweden. Over two years ago, she filed a request to live in Israel, providing the Population and Immigration Authority with papers attesting to her Jewish roots. She included print-outs from Yad Vashem attesting to relatives killed in the Holocaust. In an interview with the authority, she denied that her father had converted and said she did not belong to any Christian organization.
In July, in denying her request, authority official Irit Laubel wrote: “The applicant’s parents baptized her when she was one month old. Information has also been received that the applicant was introduced as a messianic Jewish psychologist, who believes in Jesus and is associated with the organization Svenska Evangeliska Alliansen. This organization includes various missionary groups, some of which are active among Jews in Israel.”
An appeal filed by Floer was denied and she was told to leave Israel by next Sunday.
Floer told Haaretz on Sunday that she feels Jewish and had always felt different from others in Austria where she grew up, as well as in Sweden. She expressed her concern over the rise of neo-Nazism in Sweden and increased anti-Semitism, saying she believes it is dangerous for a Jew to live in Sweden.
Floer said that as a child she suffered from anti-Semitism and in once instance a swastika was painted at the entrance to her apartment.
Floer’s Austrian-born father, Joseph Kornfeld, was sent with his sisters to an orphanage just before World War II broke out. Her grandparents could not join their children and were murdered in Auschwitz. Floer said her Swedish mother was Christian and wanted her children to be baptized as was the custom in Sweden. Floer’s father, an atheist, agreed, also so she would more easily become part of society. Her parents subsequently divorced and her mother remarried. Her stepfather was Austrian, so the family moved to Austria. Floer said her mother and stepfather tried to distance her from Judaism and raise her as a Christian. They did not allow her to see her father until she returned to Sweden as an adult.
Floer said her father feared identifying as a Jew, but did not deny his roots. She said that after her first visit to Israel her father was pleased, went to synagogue for the first time, bought a mezuzah and eventually had a menorah carved on his gravestone. She said Sunday that her grandparents had lived in Vienna in 1938, and when the Nazis marched in the streets of Vienna, they tried to flee and no country would take them. Now, Floer said, the Nazis are marching in Gothenburg and Israel would not accept her. She asked rhetorically whether she had to be murdered for Israel to recognize her as Jewish.
According to the Law of Return, the child or grandchild of a Jew are entitled to immigrate to Israel, unless the Jew “has voluntarily changed his religion.”
Attorney Shira Schwartz Meirman, who is representing Floer, says her client meets all the Law of Return’s criteria. “Her father was Jewish and was persecuted in the Holocaust and lost some of his relatives because they were Jewish.” Floer said that while her father became distant from Judaism because of the Holocaust, he never believed in another religion and therefore Floer is entitled to live in Israel.
Meirman denied that Floer is a member of a Christian organization but said that even if she were, this would not negate her right to live in Israel. “It is inconceivable that a woman who was persecuted her whole life because of her Jewishness cannot find a haven in the country intended for just such cases. This is exactly the purpose of the Law of Return,” the attorney said.
The Population and Immigration Authority said in response that Floer had first applied for recognition as a new immigrant 10 years ago and then again in 2015. “The issue was examined on all of its levels a number of times," it stated.
“This is the daughter of a Jewish man who according to information conveyed to us converted to Christianity, proof of which was presented,” the authority added. “The daughter was baptized. Thus in keeping with the Law of Return, the restriction to the Law of Return applies to her as [it would to] one who is a member of another religion.”