Canadian Jewish Convert Denied Immigration to Israel

Published: February 15th 2011
in News » Local

Thomas Dohlan and family

The Israeli Interior Ministry denied immigration to Thomas Dohlan, a Canadian citizen married to an Israeli, because Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar ruled Dohlans Orthodox conversion as “unacceptable”.


"I define myself as a Jew, it's a significant part of who I am, and it's hard for me to express just how great my disappointment is, It hurts inside," Dohlan told Haaretz in telephone interview from his home in Trenton, Ontario.


Dohlan, the 24-year-old member of the Canadian Air Force ground crew, converted a year ago and has four children with his wife, Ortal. He is “desperate” to immigrate to Israel, reports Haaretz. The Canadian military doesn't recognize him as a Jew either and won’t let him take holidays or Shabbat off.


Dohlan will be allowed to enter Israel on a temporary visa as an Israeli citizen's husband.


The ministry told Haaretz that the Chief Rabbinate is "the authorized decision making party with regard to Orthodox conversions undergone abroad."


The Chief Rabbinate can only rule over orthodox conversions, since those who undergo Conservative and Reform conversions abroad must be accepted as immigrants by the ministry, since a 1988 High Court ruling.


Dohlan converted under the International Rabbinic Fellowship and considers himself Modern Orthodox, but Amar has a history of turning down requests for immigration on the basis of conversions performed under the authority of Modern Orthodox Rabbis. Amar will only accept those converted in North America under the ultra-Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America.


Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who is head of the haredi-dominated political party Shas, said he is unaware of the details of the case , but has told Haaretz that it was a mistake that would be fixed.


The Jewish Life Information Center is fighting for the Dohlans and is ready to go to court to reverse the ministry’s decision.

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