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From: Interior Ministry RE: Ruth the Moabite

Last week, Israel celebrated Shavuot, the holiday on which we read the Book of Ruth. The following is a take on how correspondence between Anat Hoffman of the Israel Religious Action Center and the Ministry of Interior would look like if the Biblical Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David and Judaism’s first convert, were to be seeking legal status in Israel today. Chag sameach!

Mr. Eli Yishai*
Minister of Interior
Kaplan 2

Dear Sir,

Re: Ruth the Moabite – Request to Obtain Permanent Status in Israel

Our client, Ruth the Moabite, is the non-Jewish widow of a Jewish husband, Chilion son of Elimelech. Her husband passed away outside of Israel, in Moab, and is buried there. My client entered Israel legally with her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi, who was also widowed while abroad.

The following is a declaration of our client, Ruth the Moabite, regarding her strong link to the Jewish people: “Where you lodge, I shall lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where you die will I die, and there will I be buried” (Ruth 1:16-17).

In addition, you may find attached the appeal of Mr. Boaz son of Salmah, an Israeli citizen, who participates in this request for Ruth the Moabite’s permanent status in Israel with his intention to marry my client.

I ask that you grant our client status in Israel by virtue of her prior marriage to a Jewish man.

With respect,

Anat Hoffman, Executive Director
The Israel Religious Action Center
The Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism

*Yishai (Jesse)—Biblical name of the father of King David and grandson of Ruth the Moabite.


Anat Hoffman
The Israel Religious Action Center

Dear Ms. Hoffman,

Re: Ruth the Moabite

Your request was received by our offices and has been reviewed by our staff at the Ministry of Interior. The request is rejected due to the absence of essential documents needed for the Ministry’s procedures regarding these matters:

The Moabite woman is required to present a marriage certificate when requesting verification, as the marriage was performed abroad.

A death certificate of the deceased Jew signed by a recognized Chevra Kadisha must be presented.

Your client’s declaration of her link to Judaism is not acceptable as a conversion. In the absence of a conversion certificate, she is registered as a Moabite, not a Jew.

In reference to your client’s declaration: “Where you die will I die, and there will I be buried.” This statement cannot be used to seek approval from the Burial Council.

Your client is attempting any and all potential methods to legitimize her being in Israel, first through her claim that she is a widow to a Jewish husband and now through her new claim that she is the partner of Boaz son of Salmah.

In light of the above, we ask that the Moabite woman exit from Israel within 30 days from the receipt of your initial request in order to arrange her documents from abroad. As such, she can present herself at the Israeli Embassy in Moab to submit all of the required documents that meet the specified criteria for obtaining residency status in Israel.

The position of the Minister is that one must regret the situation in which a respected Jewish citizen of such high status, such as Boaz son of Salmah, requests to marry a non-Jewish woman. Do we lack proper women here in Israel? It is necessary and advisable to take into account the status of the expected children from such a union.

With respect,

Dr. Shuki Amrani
Interior Ministry


Anat Hoffman is executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal and advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel.  Read more about her here.

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    1. Mik

      this post i guess would make sense from a Karaite perspective, but coming from a Reform rabbi i really don’t get the point. If you want decent immigration policy, please don’t send us to the Bible.

      Reply to Comment
    2. jorge

      Are you saying biblical historical stories in the bible are not relevant for non orthodox and have no right to use it?

      I understand that Orthodox rabbis don’t accept the interpretation of reform rabbis but this letter is not about interpretation. It is about a biblical history that is accepted by the Orthodox community. You cannot pull these stories out only when it serves your national interest and ignore them when they serve a social justice interest.

      By the way, there is no where in the bible where Orthodox rabbis were given an upper status than reform rabbis… actually orthodox rabbis don’t exist in the bible 🙂 . So they have no monopoly over the bible or interpretation of it.

      Also Remember that all the support Israel is getting from America would disappear if reform Jews (Majority of Jews in America) turn their back on Israel. So just be grateful instead of insulting people

      Reply to Comment
    3. Mik

      wow- I wasn’t insulting anyone. I was just saying that using a biblical story to make a point about conversion doesn’t make sense for me from a reform perspective or from a modern state immigration perspective (and I believe in modern states!). I don’t think anybody has a monopoly over interpretation- that is actually kind of a contradiction in terms. I was just wondering why it was important for Rabbi Hoffman to use that example specifically? It just seemed weird for me that’s all.
      Lastly, I will not be grateful- who told you I want all of that support from America? Jeez.

      Reply to Comment
    4. max

      There are some historical indications that Judaism was more of a proselytizing religion in older times, with large groups converting en-masse. It’s reasonable to assume that these conversions didn’t follow today’s protocol.
      But what’s the point of this post?
      Even orthodox Jews who consider that all rules were given by God don’t claim that these rules were always known and followed, as is clear by the religious texts: in its own way, orthodoxy is also adapting.
      So as Mik writes, is the message that Judaism should go back a few years?
      Probably not, as the letter is addressed to the Interior Ministry and refers to the right of staying in Israel.
      So the message is: the Ministry, who has no authority to define the religious aspect, should use its legal power and let none Jews become Israeli – or at least stay in Israel – when circumstances similar to that described for Ruth the Moabite happen.
      This is a message I agree with.
      It’s a pity that this message was wrapped with a religious debate culminating with the ugly last paragraph.

      Reply to Comment
    5. billy

      i think that the piece was a joke that would prove a point that the modern immigration policy in israel is f’ed up! i think that hoffman’s piece was pretty funny and ironic (i don’t think she’s a rabbi, but i dunno exactly!!). kudos to her, this was so funny and all of my cousins loved it. but seriously, it’s a great way to bring attention to the real issues in israel.

      Reply to Comment